Glen Ellyn voters will get their say on marijuana sales

Glen Ellyn will ask voters in November if the village should allow recreational marijuana sales within its boundaries.

Trustees voted unanimously Monday to place a nonbinding referendum on the Nov. 3 general election ballot. Its advisory nature means the board will not have to follow the will of the voters.

But the outcome will help the board gauge public sentiment on whether to overturn or uphold a moratorium on commercial pot shops nearly one year after recreational cannabis became legal in Illinois.

Glen Ellyn's one-year ban is set to last until Oct. 26, but officials said they would look to adjust that date to bridge the gap between then and when they get back election results.

In the referendum voters will be asked simply, "Shall the Village of Glen Ellyn permit the sale of recreational cannabis within village limits?"

While she supports letting voters have their say, Trustee Kelli Christiansen reiterated that residents "deserve an up-or-down vote" resolving the issue. Only a handful of other suburbs have enacted temporary bans.

"Instead it feels to me like we keep kicking the can down the road, but here we are, and I back the referendum question as posed," Christiansen said. "I would, though, like us to think about reasons why, when and whether the board determines to hold referendums for various issues."

Voters last weighed in on a nonbinding measure when a citizens group opposed to the lights at Memorial Field drove a referendum push in 2012. That debate led to marathon meetings with overflow crowds.

By contrast, the board will pose a cannabis question "about which perhaps a few dozen" have written to the board and spoken before trustees on a handful of occasions, Christiansen said.

"While I will vote to place the cannabis question on the ballot, I also would like us to consider the criteria by which we make such decisions in order to ensure that we are treating all voices and all issues equally," she said.

In advance of the virtual meeting Monday, 15 residents submitted comments on the question, most of whom repeated an opt-out group's message in support of the "clear, neutral and unbiased" wording.

In the first three months of legalization, Illinois dispensaries have reaped a collective $110 million. The state has allowed dispensaries to stay open as essential businesses.

Municipalities can place local sales taxes of up to 3% on recreational sales.

Among surrounding towns, Carol Stream, Lombard, Oakbrook Terrace and Winfield have allowed sales, while Glendale Heights, Lisle and Wheaton have opted out. In Naperville, 53.25% of voters endorsed recreational sales in an advisory question last month.

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