DuPage County poised to vote on recreational pot sales in unincorporated areas
DuPage County could earn tax revenue from recreational cannabis businesses even if it bans them in unincorporated areas.
County board members are scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to allow recreational marijuana sales in unincorporated areas.
The vote comes after officials spent months reviewing how DuPage could be affected if it allows businesses to sell marijuana under Illinois' Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.
The state law will make recreational use and possession by adults legal beginning Jan. 1.
"The big question is whether we're going to opt out of having any facilities in the unincorporated areas," county board member Robert Larsen said Monday. The Wheaton Republican serves as chairman of the board's finance committee.
If the county opts in, Larsen said, the plan is to require recreational marijuana dispensaries to meet the same zoning requirements as medical cannabis businesses. For example, they would need to be at least 1,000 feet from the property line of a school, day care facility or area zoned for residential use.
"There have been proposals by some board members to lower or eliminate those restrictions," Larsen said. "I think that would be dangerous."
If DuPage allows cannabis to be sold in unincorporated areas, it can place a sales tax of up to 3.75% on the sales.
But even if the county board rejects that idea, it still could approve an ordinance imposing a 3% tax on all retail sales of recreational cannabis sold in municipalities.
So while DuPage could get $187,500 in tax revenue from a dispensary earning $5 million a year in an unincorporated area, the county could get $150,000 from that same business if it is in a municipality.
Larsen said he would be "shocked" if the board rejects the 3% tax on sales in municipalities.
"I would expect everyone to support that," he said. "We might as well get the revenue from it if we're going to be dealing with the consequences of it."
Larsen said DuPage is expected to have increased law enforcement costs and other expenses as a result of the state legalizing recreational marijuana.
"This is the only place we can get revenue to help deal with those costs," he said.
Last month, State's Attorney Robert Berlin talked about issues other states faced after legalizing marijuana.
He pointed to statistics showing Colorado experienced increases in property crime and violent crime. There also was an increase in the number of traffic fatalities with drivers testing positive for marijuana.
County health department officials, meanwhile, said the availability of recreational marijuana is expected to increase use among adults and youths and hurt the health of residents. As a result, they are anticipating increased demand for public health services in DuPage.