Elk Grove Village set to approve recreational marijuana sales

  • Elk Grove Village has hosted a marijuana cultivation facility, Illinois Grown Medicine, since 2016. Now, the village board is poised to approve recreational pot sales in town.

    Elk Grove Village has hosted a marijuana cultivation facility, Illinois Grown Medicine, since 2016. Now, the village board is poised to approve recreational pot sales in town. Daily Herald File Photo, 2019

 
 
Updated 3/24/2021 5:25 PM

Despite some personal misgivings, a majority of Elk Grove Village board members are willing to allow the sale of recreational marijuana in town.

A 5-1 committee vote Tuesday night, with Mayor Craig Johnson also expressing his support, comes nearly two years after legalization in Illinois, and about four months after Elk Grove voters by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio favored legal pot sales in an advisory referendum.

 

"Me saying I'm fine with it has nothing to do with the money," Johnson said during the brief committee debate. "It's kind of disheartening when I saw some towns saying, 'We're against it. We don't believe in it. But we want the money.' That's not the right attitude to have.

"If the money comes, fine. If it doesn't come, that's fine, too," Johnson continued. "But if it's something that people can legally have (and) legally use, then it shouldn't be us to stop them from that."

Whether it's the revenue or results of advisory ballot questions, several municipalities in recent months have reconsidered their initial hesitance on allowing pot sales. A 3% local tax towns are allowed to tack on is worth at least $500,000 annually, according to some estimates.

Johnson and several trustees said they struggled with the decision, over a possible conflict with the mission of the Elk Grove Village Cares program, established in 2018 to help those battling addiction problems.

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Trustee Pat Feichter, the lone "no" vote, said he examined literature on both sides of the pot legalization debate. What stood out, he said, was research on the dangers of marijuana use while driving, psychological problems, addiction issues, and being a gateway to harder drugs.

"I could easily say yes, let's go along with how the vote went and vote yes for it, but I felt there was something really special about Elk Grove Village and what we do," Feichter said. "But I had to vote no on it because it was a moral commitment on my part, and that is something I had to stand for."

But other trustees noted the presence of liquor stores, cigarette sales and video gambling terminals in town.

"(Marijuana) is legal and with all these other things -- even though we may have our personal preferences against them -- but as long as we do it the right way," said Trustee Stephen Schmidt, the former police chief who once worked as an Officer Friendly in the schools. "And if we can take some of the money, if a place ever does come into town, we can funnel any proceeds into the Elk Grove Cares program, I think it would be a little bit easier for me to accept that."

Elk Grove is already home to Illinois Grown Medicine, a 12,000-square-foot medical marijuana cultivation facility that opened on Greenleaf Avenue in 2016. It's generated $175,000 over two years for village coffers, in addition to required contributions to civic groups, officials said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The draft zoning regulations reviewed by trustees include a prohibition on pot shops in the residential section of town or nearby shopping centers, but stores would be allowed within the sprawling east-side industrial park.

Officials say they've never received a formal proposal from any prospective marijuana dispensaries, but they have gotten brief inquiries since the statewide legalization.

The board's vote Tuesday follows earlier discussions during two meetings of its judiciary, planning and zoning committee since February. A final vote on an ordinance permitting sales, as well as a local licensing fee, is expected April 13.

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