Residents, school leaders urge Antioch to ban marijuana sales

  • Customers shop for marijuana inside a recreational marijuana store, in Denver, Colorado. Antioch is among several communities wrestling with a decision to allow or ban retail sales of marijuana.

    Customers shop for marijuana inside a recreational marijuana store, in Denver, Colorado. Antioch is among several communities wrestling with a decision to allow or ban retail sales of marijuana. AP file photo

 
 
Updated 9/18/2019 2:16 PM

The pending legalization of marijuana in Illinois is presenting tough questions for elected officials in Antioch, who like those in other communities need to decide whether to allow sales or other aspects of the emerging industry in town.

While there were some supporters, a good portion of the public comment during a special information session Monday was against allowing pot shops in town after it becomes legal Jan. 1.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Village trustees Dan Yost and Mary Dominiak said they oppose the idea as well, while other board members said it's too soon to predict a final decision.

Would recreational pot sales in Antioch add stress in schools, lead to an increase in crime and impaired driving, and run counter to a community vision? Or would proceeds from an added tax on a legal commodity be worth allowing it? And would the inevitable flow of customers from neighboring Wisconsin add to the local economy or create other issues?

"The biggest problem is it's all about money. It's not an easy decision for anybody up here," Mayor Larry Hanson said at the end of a two-hour session at the Antioch Senior Center.

About 65 attended the meeting, which included a presentation of what the law entails, public comment and remarks by village trustees. The information shared and links to other resources are available on the village website.

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Besides having a say on retail stores, local governments also can authorize the consumption of cannabis on-site, such as cafes and lounges, and can regulate the location of craft growers, infusers and cultivation centers.

Village officials emphasized no decisions have been made and no formal applications from a potential marijuana business have been received.

Village administrator Jim Keim said the village would be allowed to add a 3% sales tax onto its existing tax for marijuana sales. Those proceeds could fund various village expenses, but there is no way to know how much that might be and no established plan to use the money.

Chuck Haley, chaplain for the Antioch Police Department and other agencies, said communities already feel the negative effects of drugs. He said village should not contribute to those problems.

"The money generated as income won't be worth it," he said.

But Antioch resident Angela Vitacco said the village can profit from legal marijuana.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I think it's a golden egg opportunity," she said.

Jim McKay, superintendent of Community High School District 117, which educates students from Lake Villa, Lindenhurst and Antioch, and Eric Hamilton, principal of Antioch Community High School, urged the board to vote against marijuana sales in town.

"I worry about stressing out an already stressed system," McKay said.

Some suggested the board delay a decision like Grayslake, which banned sales for at least a year to see the impacts on other communities.

"I'm not pro, I'm not con, but I am about getting the facts, analyzing the data and making an informed decision either way," said Christina Wickenkamp.

The village board likely will discuss the issue again before handing it over to its planning and zoning board for further proceedings, according to Hanson.

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