Vernon Hills residents overwhelmingly oppose allowing marijuana sales
More than 250 people packed into a theater Tuesday at Vernon Hills High School for a discussion on the village's response to the legalization of recreational marijuana.
The occasionally raucous crowd was overwhelmingly opposed to allowing recreational pot sales in town. A comment from a resident in favor of allowing dispensaries was shouted down.
No decisions were made by village trustees, who under state law can ban recreational marijuana sellers from town or restrict where and under what circumstances they can operate.
The meeting comes as towns across the suburbs are deciding how to respond to the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which makes it legal for adults 21 and over to use recreational marijuana beginning Jan. 1. Lake Zurich and Grayslake have outlawed sales within their town limits, while Mundelein, Wauconda and Buffalo Grove have indicated they are willing to allow it. Gurnee, Libertyville and many other communities remain undecided.
Towns that decide to allow marijuana sales can impose a 3% sales tax on top of state taxes.
Dr. Aaron Weiner, director of addition services at Linden Oaks Behavioral Health, urged the village board to opt out on sales. He pointed out that 70% of municipalities in Colorado chose not to allow recreational marijuana sales when the drug became legal there.
"I've been very concerned about aspects of this for quite some time," he said. "When you have more access, you have more use. Essentially, the more dispensaries in an area, (there) tends to be more young adult use.
"It is the second most common substance that I treat in my addiction centers for adults and the most common for children," Weiner said.
Vernon Hills Police Chief Patrick Kreis said that based on what he's heard from states where recreational marijuana is legal, local authorities will have a real challenge on their hands.
"Hospitalizations due to overconsumption of cannabis skyrocket," he said. "The dispensary locations have been riddled with complaints connected with the odor."
Not everyone was opposed, however.
"This whole thing is a sham," said Corey Grupe, a Vernon Hills resident for 18 years who wants to open a dispensary in the village. "The town really kind of let the people who live here down by not bringing in experts from both sides."
Still, supporters like Grupe were outnumbered by opponents, who asked trustees to draft an ordinance banning sales in Vernon Hills.
"Like most schools in our area, Vernon Hills High School has seen an increase in marijuana use," Vernon Hills High School Principal Jon Guillaume said. "For those of us who work with young people, that's a scary thing. I implore you to keep this drug far away from our children."