Marijuana sales backers organizing to counter visible 'Opt Out' group in Palatine
Opponents and supporters of possible recreational marijuana retailers in Palatine are gearing up for a village council session expected to decide the issue next week.
Recreational pot use by those 21 and older becomes legal in Illinois on Jan. 1. Towns can't outlaw its use, but they are allowed to prohibit businesses that sell it or restrict their location.
Palatine village council members Monday night are to vote on whether to allow the recreational marijuana businesses as special uses in certain areas of their town and related issues. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at village hall, 200 E. Wood St.
Commentary from residents and others on both sides of the issue is expected before the final vote.
Opponents vastly outnumbered backers when the village council declined to immediately reject casual weed retailers in September and when the plan commission last month agreed on recommendations for regulations if the businesses open in Palatine.
However, resident Paul Shafer is part of an effort to mobilize marijuana sales supporters to attend the village council meeting. He said his side has borrowed an idea from an organized opposition group, which has traversed the suburbs wearing white T-shirts with "Opt Out" on the front and "Say No To Recreational Cannabis Dispensary" on the back.
Shafer said he and friend Tracy Lipari teamed to purchase and design green T-shirts with a bold "Opt In" and a marijuana leaf on the front. Also featured are "Marijuana 100% Natural" around the leaf, the Illinois House bill number representing the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, and "Palatine 2020."
While not a pot user, Shafer said he supports marijuana dispensaries in Palatine in part because they would add to the sales tax base. He said he attended the Nov. 19 plan commission meeting and decided balance in feedback to Palatine officials was needed after listening to the Opt Out members speak during public comment time.
"Maybe the Opt Out group truly does represent the majority in Palatine," Shafer said. "Maybe it does not. Either way, I figured that some people from our community may wish to express a differing view."
Opt Out members not only plan a strong turnout for Monday's meeting, but they'll also be active in Palatine on Saturday.
Palatine resident Joseph Qian, an Opt Out member, said he expects a minimum of 50 people for a rally and march against recreational pot sales from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. He said the rally will begin at village hall, followed by a march east on Wood Street, north on Northwest Highway and ending at the Hicks Road intersection clock tower.
Responding to Shafer's questioning the legitimacy of Opt Out's members from outside the village being involved, Qian said it isn't improper because "if Palatine is on fire, they will get the smoke." He said he addressed the issue at public hearings in nearby Hoffman Estates and Rolling Meadows.
"We believe the sale of recreational marijuana will certainly harm the public health, jeopardize the public safety and security, expose our young generation in the risk of drugs, cause the depreciation of our properties and drop the reputation of our community," Qian said. "We also believe it is immoral to generate revenue from the sale of drugs."