Lake County Board votes to allow adult-use pot businesses in unincorporated areas
After a year on hold and around three months spent seeking public input, the Lake County Board has voted to allow adult-use marijuana businesses in the commercial and industrial zoning districts of unincorporated areas.
The Tuesday vote came down 13-7 largely along party lines. Each of the board's six Republican members voted against the plan and Diane Hewitt was the lone Democrat to join the dissenters.
The types of allowed marijuana businesses include dispensaries -- the stores where customers purchase recreational pot products -- as well as other operations such as craft growers, processing centers, infusers, cultivation centers and transporter businesses.
Republican Judy Martini of Fox Lake said she was concerned about the plan because she is aware of ongoing plans to build marijuana dispensaries in municipalities that are trying to attract tourists that the board's decision might hamper.
Democrat Paul Frank of Highland Park said he didn't feel it was the county board's responsibility to make decisions about the business environment in adjacent communities. He also said the variety of recreational marijuana businesses allowed by the county's plan includes those that aren't built in the region yet.
"These are going to be good-paying jobs," Franks said of the positions at businesses such as pot growers, infusers and transporters. "And these back-end businesses aren't looking for municipal locations."
Before its vote Tuesday, the board hosted two public hearings and published a website for people to learn more about the issue. The site has information on the state law, status of recreational-use pot sales in other Lake County communities and an embedded mapping function.
Lake County Board Chair Sandy Hart, a Lake Bluff Democrat, thanked residents for their input and said their feedback helped county staff officials develop the regulations.
"We see this ordinance as a reasonable balance between economic development opportunities in the unincorporated areas and sensible restrictions to protect public health and safety," Hart said.
The plan states infusers, processors, craft growers and transportation facilities are allowed by right within the industrial zones. All other adult-use marijuana businesses would require a public hearing and the Lake County Zoning Board of Appeal's approval of a conditional use permit to operate.
The sale and adult use of recreational pot became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020. The issue split the county board last year and after extensive debate, the board approved a one-year moratorium to collect data and research effects before deciding whether to allow sales in unincorporated areas.