Kane County Board bans recreational pot sales in unincorporated areas
Kane County wants to reap the potential tax revenue benefits of legal, recreational marijuana use, but officials don't want to bear any potential increased law enforcement costs.
With that in mind, the county board voted Tuesday to ban recreational marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas.
The 14-9 vote, with one absence, came after a lengthy debate about how much the county should charge in sales taxes if it did allow such businesses. The board decided on a 3.25% sales tax, which is less than the 3.75% tax it first considered.
That seemed to be a sign the board was interested in courting the new industry to the county when recreational use becomes legal in Illinois on Jan. 1.
But the debate that followed showed the majority of the board was swayed by input from Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain that dispensaries are crime magnets.
Board member Drew Frasz, who represents a large unincorporated area, encapsulated the argument made by many who voted against bringing recreational marijuana commerce to the unincorporated areas.
Frasz said there are only up to four sheriff's deputies patrolling the county at any time. That can mean double-digit response times to emergency calls for unincorporated residents. Adding businesses the sheriff believes will increase crime will make that situation worse, Frasz said.
"I'll be voting 'No' on this because I support what (the sheriff) said," Frasz said. "I don't want to put any additional burden on our sheriff."
Other county board members opposed to recreational marijuana commerce, such as Doug Scheflow and Cliff Surges, said the unincorporated areas are the wrong location for high-traffic businesses that are still illegal under federal law and have a lot of cash on hand.
"This is an incentive to rob that building," Scheflow said. "They are going to generate more calls than if it remained a vacant lot. It's an inappropriate land use."
Supporters of allowing recreational marijuana commerce said the potential for job creation and new tax revenue is worth the experiment.
County board member Jarett Sanchez said the crime fears are not based on the reality in other states that have legalized or decriminalized recreational marijuana. In Illinois, medical marijuana has not fueled any major problems, he said.
"There are no crime waves, nobody getting shot and killed," Sanchez said. "These places are built like Fort Knox. You cannot get to the money. Have you seen "Oceans 11"? You'd have to go to that level of effort to get the money."
His argument failed to persuade the majority of the board. However, the county may still see some financial benefits when recreational marijuana becomes legal.
Last month, the board approved a 2.5% county tax -- lower than DuPage County's 3% tax -- on any recreational marijuana sales in municipalities. That tax will be on top of the state tax and any local municipal tax on such sales in Kane County.