DuPage County Board approves zoning changes to allow recreational cannabis sales

DuPage County Board members Tuesday reversed course and changed zoning regulations to allow for retail cannabis shops and cultivation centers in unincorporated areas.

The vote comes three years after county board members initially voted to ban cultivation centers, craft growers and other adult-use cannabis businesses in unincorporated areas of the county. But since that vote, cannabis businesses have become more acceptable across the suburbs.

Seventeen towns in DuPage County have said yes to recreational sales since the state legalized adult-use cannabis. Neighboring Chicago collar counties also have given the go-ahead for retail sales and cultivation centers.

"The county board is really making some progressive moves," said DuPage County Board member Liz Chaplin, who after Tuesday's vote gave board members a coin commemorating state legislation legalizing cannabis. "Cannabis is legalized in this state. You can have it in your home. In DuPage County, many of our municipalities now allow the sale of recreational cannabis ... it's a positive thing."

Chaplin said she plans to attend an upcoming development committee meeting to ask the county to consider zoning changes to allow for on-site consumption.

"We have so many bars in DuPage, so if we had an on-site consumption ordinance that allowed for one or two on-site locations, that might not be a terrible thing," the Downers Grove Democrat said.

Before Tuesday's vote, Joe Sheehan of Kerry Farms in Winfield asked the county board to consider allowing on-site consumption, noting that a cannabis cooking show asked to use his hemp farm as the backdrop for upcoming shows.

"I'm not asking for special treatment," Sheehan said. "I'm asking for the same rules in other counties as to not miss out on this opportunity."

The county's zoning ordinance approved Tuesday spells out where recreational cannabis shops can locate - near major roadways, a minimum of 1,500 feet from another dispensary and at least 1,500 feet from schools for dispensaries. Cultivation centers must be at least 2,500 feet from schools.

County board member James Zay expressed concern that his district could potentially be home to as much as 60% of the county's dispensaries and was among three Republicans who voted against the zoning code changes.

"That's a huge amount for one district to have," Zay said.

Of the state's 185 licenses available for dispensaries, the Chicago area, including DuPage, is eligible for up to 110, said Paul Hoss, the county's planning and zoning administrative director. Chaplin noted those licenses likely would be spread throughout the area.

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