How Buffalo Grove might restrict recreational pot sellers

Before a packed audience at village hall, Buffalo Grove's Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday recommended highly restrictive regulations for allowing recreational marijuana businesses to operate in town.

Those restrictions including permitting no more than two recreational pot sellers in the village and allowing them only in business and industrial districts. They could not locate within 1,000 feet of a school or day care facility and customers would be prohibited from using marijuana at the business.

Now it is up to the village board to consider the proposed restrictions, which it is expected to do Oct. 21.

Commissioner Matthew Cohn, the only member of the panel to vote against the recommendations, said he does not believe they go far enough. He wants to limit the businesses to industrial areas only, and wants the 1,000-foot buffer to also include museums, libraries, hospitals and churches.

Commissioner Mitch Weinstein also suggested additional restrictions, including allowing just one marijuana seller and restricting it to areas near or along major roadways.

Under state law, municipalities cannot outlaw the possession or use of small amounts of marijuana when it becomes legal in Illinois Jan. 1, but they can ban sellers or restrict where they operate.

The panel discussed the recommendations while facing an audience featuring many dressed in white shirts urging the village to “OPT OUT,” of allowing recreational marijuana businesses in the village.

Buffalo Grove resident Jinru Wu said she showed up out of concern for young people in the village.

“Marijuana is a gateway drug, and it is easy to get addicted,” she said.

But commission Chairman Frank Cesario emphasized that the panel only was considering recommendations on where and how marijuana businesses could operate. The decision on whether to allow them rests with village trustees.

“This is not an opt in or opt out meeting,” he said.

Nonetheless, for nearly two hours members of the public lined up to call for the village to ban sales. Several of the speakers were students who warned of the dangers of the drug.

“When future generations become teens, they will have grown up in a world where marijuana has always been legal, and their perception of risk will be much lower than ours is today, further contributing to the problem of underaged drug usage,” said Maya Gopal, a sophomore at Stevenson High School. “That's not what we want in Buffalo Grove.”

Not all speakers opposed recreational sales.

“I believe it actually provides more safety for the residents, more safety for the adults,” said Buffalo Grove resident Amy Kostrzak.

Some commissioners lamented the fact they have no say on whether to allow sales.

“I have an opinion about the opt-in/opt-out question, but that is not what I'm asked to have an opinion on tonight,” Cohn said. “So I sort of feel like a judge who doesn't get to decide what the law should be, but makes a decision based on what it is.”

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