Kane County may rescind cannabis ban next month
Kane County took a step Tuesday toward what several board members said they view as the unstoppable train of cannabis legalization in Illinois. The county board's development committee voted 6-2 to rescind the ban on all cannabis businesses in unincorporated areas put in place in late 2019. The proposal must still go to the full county board for a final vote.
The six "yes" votes Tuesday, combined with support from three board members who spoke at the meeting but did not partake in the vote, means the push to legalize needs to pick up only three more "yes" votes by the full board meeting next month. A 12-12 tie on the 24-member board would give county Chair Corinne Pierog the tiebreaker vote. Pierog campaigned in favor of legalizing cannabis businesses.
Less than two years ago, the county board voted 15-9 to ban all cannabis businesses in unincorporated areas. But board members also approved a county tax on municipal cannabis sales within the county at that time.
The November 2020 election gave Democrats the county board chair and a county board majority for the first time since cannabis legalization became a popular topic in the state.
And last month, Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain said he would no longer oppose cannabis businesses in unincorporated Kane County. Hain said no local data showed a related increase in crime in communities that made cannabis business legal.
New county board member David Brown campaigned on being "absolutely against" cannabis sales during his campaign. But the Batavia Republican changed his position Tuesday.
"I am not a fan of cannabis," Brown said. "I don't use it. But at this point, I'm going to support it."
Brown said he'd done more research and spoke to more constituents who are in favor of legalizing cannabis in recent months. He referenced the nonaddictive pain relief capability of cannabis compared to addictive opiates as one reason he will now support legalization.
But fellow Republicans Drew Frasz and Barb Wojnicki maintained their stances against legalization. Both voted to ban cannabis business in 2019. They pledged to do so again at the full board meeting.
"It creates a negative precedence to change an ordinance that was passed in 2019 and rescind the vote of the former board," Wojnicki said. "I have quite a bit of unincorporated area in my district. The residents are not in favor of having cannabis businesses within the unincorporated areas."
Frasz suggested county board members who represent districts that are entirely or mostly within municipal borders should abstain from the final vote. But fellow Republican Mike Kenyon, who also supported the 2019 ban, said legal cannabis would bring a new industry to the county.
"I don't want to stand in front of a train, because we're not going to stop it," Kenyon said. "I don't endorse cannabis, but it is the law."