'There's so many unknowns': Arlington Heights bans recreational marijuana sales

Arlington Heights village board members on Monday confirmed their earlier straw poll vote to ban sales of recreational marijuana within the village.

The 5-3 vote is a bit of an about-face for the elected panel, a majority of whom indicated in August they might allow pot dispensaries in town.

But the reversal came after some trustees wondered if tax revenue projections of up to $500,000 would come to fruition.

"I'm not completely against the concept," Trustee John Scaletta said of the prospect of recreational marijuana sales. "I'm just saying, what's the rush? What are we running to? We can always opt in, but we have to make a decision now about what we're going to do come January 1."

"I'd rather be prudent. There's so many unknowns."

Scaletta and Bert Rosenberg were among five board members at the panel's initial Aug. 13 discussion on the topic to express a willingness to allow recreational pot sales, but they flipped after taking a closer look at the revenue estimates.

Board members Monday didn't change their votes from their straw poll a week earlier during a committee of the whole meeting. Rosenberg was absent Monday night, but there was still enough votes to approve the village ordinance banning local pot sales starting Jan. 1, when the state law legalizing adult use takes effect.

Some trustees who voted in favor of sales asked that a one-year pilot program be allowed, especially considering the presence of the Verilife medical marijuana dispensary at Arlington Heights and Golf roads. Under the state law, medical dispensaries get first shot at being allowed to add recreational sales.

Trustee Mary Beth Canty, who voted with Rich Baldino and Jim Tinaglia to permit pot sales, said a pilot would allow time to collect data on revenues for the village's bottom line, in light of residents' concerns about a recently approved water and sewer rate increase, the uncertain future of Arlington International Racecourse, a car dealership leaving town, and the state of local retail.

Canty also noted the results of the 2018 advisory ballot question when 57% of Arlington Heights residents were in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana in Illinois.

"I believe it is our duty to listen when a majority of our residents speak to us," she said, adding that voters should remember the controversial pot vote when they cast their ballots for village board in the future.

Mayor Tom Hayes countered that he factors in the input of residents, but in a representative democracy, he said he makes decisions based on what he thinks is in the best interest of the community. He's argued that a ban on pot sales would preserve the village's image as a family-oriented community.

"A comment someone made to me was, 'This mayor is not progressive in his thinking. He doesn't have a vision for the village of Arlington Heights,'" Hayes said. "I have a vision. Unfortunately my vision of what Arlington Heights should be is not the same as his."

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