Kane County Board members consider lifting recreational marijuana ban

Updated 1/19/2021 6:01 PM

Despite a renewed push Tuesday to lift the 2019 ban on all marijuana-related businesses in unincorporated Kane County, it's not clear if there are enough votes to challenge the measure.

New county board Chair Corinne Pierog had campaigned on lifting the ban to create local jobs and keep the pressure off property taxes by creating another income source for the county. And, Sheriff Ron Hain, a fellow Democrat, has since eased his initial opposition to such businesses out of fear they would be crime magnets.


But, despite a November election that saw Democrats gain a majority of county board seats, there remain at least 12 board members who supported the 2019 ban or said they would continue to support a ban during their candidacies.

That includes board members like Ken Shepro, who is also the chairman of the Kane County Republican Party. He said he will oppose lifting any ban that allows for dispensaries in unincorporated areas.

"The county has a policy that it does not compete with municipalities for commercial development," Shepro said.

He added he would be more open to non-retail aspects of the marijuana industry. However, staff said lifting the ban is an all-or-nothing proposal, per state law.

Still, Tuesday's discussion shows some longtime opponents are softening their stances on the issue.

In an email interview, Hain said 2019 was too soon to put the businesses in a relatively widespread area that doesn't have the same police presence as municipalities. In 2020, many marijuana businesses opened throughout the state. Hain says the track record of those facilities now speaks for itself.

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"We have not seen that increase (in crime)," he said. "Holding true to my original position, I cannot oppose at this time."

Likewise, at least two board members who voted in favor of the ban in 2019 -- John Martin and Mike Kenyon -- have both said they will no longer support a ban. That 2019 vote was 14 to 9 in favor of the ban. One board member was absent.

There are 24 seats on the county board. Pierog would vote if there is a tie. The county board's development committee tabled the debate on the topic for 30 days. That will allow county staff more time to compile all the details involved with lifting the ban.

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