Channahon village trustees and planning and zoning commissioners held an informational meeting this week on the subject of whether to allow retail marijuana dispensaries to set up in town.
No vote was taken at the joint meeting, but the officials discussed the pros and cons after a presentation on the subject by attorney Marron Mahoney, of Mahoney, Silverman and Cross Law Firm.
Mahoney shared what she felt were the important points of the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act that will legalize recreational cannabis in the state on Jan. 1, 2020.
Taxes on retail sales, cultivation, processing, and transporting cannabis will go to the state, county and local municipality, she explained. Some of the taxes will be allocated for crime prevention programs and police training.
Illinois will grant up to 75 licenses for dispensaries in the first wave, of which 47 will be allocated to eight northeastern counties that include Cook, Will, Kendall and Grundy.
The decision Channahon will have to make will be to opt out of allowing dispensaries in the village, opt in or do nothing. If the village decides to opt in, it can impose restrictions on the number of establishments, the time they can operate, the locations, and minimum distance requirements from schools and other locations, among others.
Mahoney recommended the village make its decision by the end of the year.
“We are here to decide whether to prohibit or allow a retail store here,” Village President Missey Moorman Schumacher said at the beginning of the meeting.
Schumacher read a letter from a resident who was not able to attend the meeting and was in favor of allowing marijuana retail businesses to locate in Channahon.
Most residents in the audience favored allowing the businesses. Brian Loomis was one.
“You’re getting the marijuana one way or the other,” he said.
Ignatius Peneporte, however, said he did not want retail cannabis sales in town.
“I think it’s a business Channahon does not need,” he said. “I really don’t want to see a business anywhere near my home, and I think the village should opt out.”
Many saw the proposition as an economic boon for the village.
Resident Tom Powell said he believes it won’t just be Channahon residents who will be buying the product and paying the taxes should the village opt in. It will also be residents of neighboring communities that opted out of allowing the businesses in their towns. Powell said he is writing a book on the issue and has done research on the tax benefits.
“The positive economic effects of newly legalized marijuana sales have been boons to local economies in states that have already legalized marijuana across the country,” he said.
The taxes will be welcome in Channahon, he said. If the village does not opt in, he said, Channahon residents will buy their cannabis and pay their taxes in Joliet, and just bring the product into Channahon anyway.
“All we have to do is reach out and take our share,” he added.
Trustee Scott Slocum attended the meeting in absentia on speaker phone and said he was in Colorado and had visited retail dispensaries there. They are very strictly regulated, he said, and security was tight.
Commissioner Dennis Sullivan said he heard that a cannabis black market was thriving in some places in California. Channahon Police Chief Shane Casey said he thought if opting in would reduce illegal activity, it would be well worth it.
In a written statement, Casey said his recommendation is, if the village ops in, to place retail cannabis businesses away from other retail and residential locations and to tax them at the maximum allowable rate. Crime around cannabis businesses will likely not increase much, he added, based on crime reports in other states.
Casey said he would also like to see closing times of 9 p.m. or earlier.
Commissioner Casey McCollom said that even though he is not a user and doesn’t plan to become one, he didn’t understand why there is protest against allowing retail marijuana dispensaries in Channahon. He mentioned prohibition, asking, “Isn’t this a classic case of history repeating itself?”
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