Could Glen Ellyn ask voters to weigh in on pot sales?

  • People stood in line for hours at Rise in Mundelein waiting to legally buy different forms of marijuana with about a thousand other people on New Year's Day. Patrons fill the store waiting to get their product on this New Year's Day.

      People stood in line for hours at Rise in Mundelein waiting to legally buy different forms of marijuana with about a thousand other people on New Year's Day. Patrons fill the store waiting to get their product on this New Year's Day. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/31/2020 9:47 AM

Glen Ellyn's moratorium on recreational marijuana sales doesn't expire until October, but officials already are considering putting the issue to voters in November.

If trustees ultimately decide to place a referendum question on the ballot, Glen Ellyn would join Naperville, Lemont and Batavia in asking voters whether to allow retail pot sales within their towns.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Glen Ellyn enacted a one-year ban that lasts until Oct. 26, with some trustees preferring to wait and see how the market establishes itself in towns that have welcomed marijuana shops. One month into legalization in Illinois, suburban dispensaries in Mundelein, North Aurora and Addison have reported robust sales, long lines and product shortages.

"The village is actually interested in doing a referendum. Staff has been looking into it," Village President Diane McGinley said Thursday.

She wants trustees to have detailed discussions during a board workshop about the wording of a potential ballot question and the type. A binding referendum would require trustees to follow the decision of the voters. Or, they could chose an advisory measure.

"I am fully supportive of a referendum," McGinley said. "However, we need to have candid conversations over what the referendum would mean. My concern is that the verbiage is correct. I want the residents to know exactly what the village board is thinking of."

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Such a question, McGinley said, should give voters relevant information about proposed zoning regulations for marijuana businesses. Those restrictions, recommended by village plan commissioners, would only allow dispensaries along the Roosevelt Road corridor and would prohibit drive-through and window sales, smoking lounges and on-site consumption.

McGinley would support one retail cannabis shop on Roosevelt Road under those zoning conditions. The board is not considering any other location for dispensaries, she said.

Statewide sales of marijuana totaled $19.7 million in the first 12 days of legalization. Municipalities can place local sales taxes of up to 3% on recreational marijuana sales.

"I would use the revenues to help with pensions, rising costs and some services that we're interested in funding," McGinley said. "However, I'm OK with opting out as well."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Trustee Mark Senak has become one of the more vocal proponents for a Nov. 3 referendum question.

"Of all the states that have considered the issue of legalized or recreational cannabis, only two -- Illinois and Vermont -- failed to submit the issue to a statewide referendum," Senak said. "So the purpose of the referendum is to essentially give our residents, at least in Glen Ellyn, the opportunity that they were denied by our General Assembly."

Senak said he's struggled with the question of whether to opt out of sales.

"The difficulty for me is now that it has been legalized at the state level, I don't see how outlawing it in municipalities is going to prevent the harm that is going to ensue by statewide legalization because people who are inclined to indulge simply need to go, in our circumstance, to Lombard and then drive back to Glen Ellyn," he said.

Naperville voters will weigh in on March 17 about whether to allow recreational marijuana sales within its boundaries. The referendum question is nonbinding, but several Naperville City Council members have indicated they will follow the will of voters. The city so far has banned recreational sales.

Voters in Batavia can decide in a binding referendum Nov. 3 if they want to allow recreational sales within city limits.

The last day to adopt a resolution or ordinance to allow binding or advisory questions to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot is Aug. 17. The last day for those questions to be certified with the DuPage Election Commission is Aug. 27.

McGinley said the board could take up referendum discussions at a workshop in February or March, but she's leaning toward the latter so staffers have more information about what opt-in towns are experiencing.

"The village is open to all discussions," she said. "We're not in a rush."

McGinley has called for a final decision on marijuana sales before the next municipal election in 2021.

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