West Chicago votes to ban recreational marijuana sales
West Chicago aldermen voted 8-5 this week to prohibit recreational cannabis dispensaries in the city.
The Illinois' Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act allows recreational use and possession of marijuana by adults beginning Jan. 1. Towns across the region are deciding whether to allow such sales.
Residents spoke for nearly two hours before Monday's vote -- and while the majority opposed cannabis sales, there were some disagreements.
Chief among residents' concerns were potential dangers to children and teenagers, the community's reputation and fears about rising crime.
"Tonight, we heard our city's conscience and that's the conscience we need to listen to," Alderman Alton Hallett said.
"These people spoke so passionately about an issue that goes with one of our greatest values: protecting our children," Alderman James Beifuss said.
Not everyone agreed.
Alderman Lori Chassee pointed out the tax revenue that could come from recreational cannabis sales. Municipalities are allowed to place up to a 3% tax on such sales.
Without additional revenue, she said, property taxes may continue to rise.
She argued that even without dispensaries, West Chicago will still bear the cost of marijuana legalization in many ways, including increased police training.
"We will still have all of those consequences, but will derive none of the benefits," Chassee said. "I don't think we can afford to bury our heads in the sand."
Aldermen Heather Brown and Rebecca Stout said cannabis will be available in Illinois either way, and it is important to regulate it and make it safer.
"If we opt out, we're limiting our resources," Stout said.
Mayor Ruben Pineda said cannabis dispensaries could be beneficial from a business perspective, but ultimately the city does not need them.
"I would prefer not to have them here and have West Chicago keep going in the right direction," he said.