Recreational pot discussion back on front burner in Lake County

  • Customers get help last February at the Rise marijuana store in Mundelein. Recreational pot sales became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020. Lake County officials now are deciding whether to allow recreational marijuana sales in unincorporated areas.

    Customers get help last February at the Rise marijuana store in Mundelein. Recreational pot sales became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020. Lake County officials now are deciding whether to allow recreational marijuana sales in unincorporated areas. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2020

 
 
Posted1/28/2021 5:30 AM

After a year on hold, whether to allow the sale of marijuana for recreational use in unincorporated areas of Lake County is back on the front burner.

An official vote is months away, but a majority of county board members appear ready to authorize the public process to establish zoning rules for retail shops and other aspects of the cannabis business.

 

That would set the stage for a public hearing before the county's zoning board of appeals and action by the full county board, likely in mid-spring.

The sale and adult use of recreational cannabis became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020. However, following extensive debate, the county board approved a one-year moratorium to collect data and research effects before deciding whether to allow sales in unincorporated areas.

The moratorium expires Feb. 10, and the board has to decide whether to extend it, ban cannabis sales or start the process to craft rules to govern the cannabis business.

On Tuesday, the county board's public works, planning and transportation committee heard a presentation on potential restrictions.

The zoning changes would govern where the businesses could be located and other aspects of a given operation.

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Tuesday's meeting was an introduction, and the committee is scheduled to make a recommendation Feb. 3 on whether to direct the zoning board to conduct a public hearing. The full county board would vote on that action Feb. 9.

Given the feedback from the full board during an informal committee-of-the-whole session earlier this month, that process is likely to go forward.

"Lake County is one of the few remaining jurisdictions that has yet to either ban or zone for cannabis-related business," said Eric Waggoner, the county's director of planning, building and development.

Twenty-three municipalities in Lake County allow recreational marijuana businesses and 25 have enacted bans, according to the county.

The issue split the county board last year and resulted in the one-year pause. Some board members contended that since cannabis sales are legal, the county should take advantage of the potential revenue and economic opportunities.

Others wanted to learn more about potential impacts of what then was uncharted territory in Illinois.

However, the COVID-19 crisis has skewed any data, and the prevailing opinion at the committee-of-the-whole session was to end the moratorium.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I think it makes sense at this point to regulate it and move on," said board member Marah Altenberg of Buffalo Grove.

"I don't think we need to wait any longer."

If the measure proceeds, Waggoner said, it would include "a full and transparent opportunity for all sorts of public engagement as we go through that process."

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