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My suburb is going to pot. How about yours?

Daily Herald

Monday, September 9, 2019  |  Article  |   Marlen Garcia

Recreational Marijuana

It’s a no-brainer that Chicago will have dispensaries. It’s a tougher call for the more conservative suburbs.

About a month ago, I sent an email to my alderman in Des Plaines to let her know I opposed the sale of recreational pot in our suburb. I hoped she would, too.


Apparently, I was in the minority.


In a newsletter sent to constituents by email, Ald. Denise Rodd explained that the consensus of the Des Plaines City Council “was to not prohibit cannabis business establishments (CBE) and to have further discussion about regulating CBEs should a licensed business request to open in Des Plaines.”


Cities and villages all over the state are deciding whether to allow recreational pot sales. The new state law that legalizes recreational pot starting Jan. 1 allows towns to opt out of allowing the sale, cultivation and processing of cannabis.


It’s a no-brainer that Chicago will have dispensaries. It’s a tougher call for the more conservative suburbs.


Naperville’s City Council voted Tuesday to prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana but might put it on a ballot referendum for voters. Wheaton is planning to ban it. Bolingbrook voted last month to ban dispensaries.


Arlington Heights likely will pass an ordinance allowing sales despite objections from Mayor Thomas W. Hayes, he told me by phone this week. Joliet is working on a licensing structure for recreational pot and will soon get a presentation from 3C, a medical marijuana dispensary in town, a city official told me. Existing medical marijuana dispensaries have the first shot at getting state licenses to sell recreational pot.


Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty has said Evanston is likely to approve recreational pot. The City Council will discuss it on Sept. 16, he told me.


On Tuesday, I attended the Des Plaines City Council meeting to better understand why my city is going to pot. It quickly became clear that city leaders want to make the best of a law they aren’t on board with.


“I’m still very opposed,” Ald. Carla Brookman said during the meeting. Police do not have tools to measure impaired driving, she said, and marijuana edibles “will absolutely find their way into lunchrooms.”


But if Des Plaines doesn’t allow pot sales, a neighboring community will, Ald. Malcolm Chester told me. Banning sales in Des Plaines won’t bring down marijuana use in the city, he pointed out. It just makes sense that city leaders want to capture some of the new revenue and have a say in how a business operates.


That’s why North Aurora is going to allow it. A medical marijuana dispensary already operates there with no problem, North Aurora Village President Dale Berman told me.


“We’d rather have control,” Berman said of recreational pot dispensaries. “We can’t control use. We can control where and when it will be sold.”


Worth, a southwest suburb, is approving a recreational dispensary for the tax revenue. Municipalities can put a tax of up to 3% on sales.


“The Village of Worth is a small, land locked, bedroom community with no industry, no manufacturing, no big box stores or shopping malls, so we need to take advantage of the sales tax potential,” Village President Mary M. Werner said in an email.


I left the Des Plaines meeting with a new outlook on pot. I can live with a dispensary. The city is not only considering allowing dispensaries but cultivation, processing and craft growing centers that would bring an unknown number of jobs and property tax revenue to the city. Those are good things.

I’m glad, too, that people with medical conditions will have an easier time accessing pot starting Jan. 1. They can dodge the bureaucracy of obtaining a medical marijuana card.


Using pot is becoming as acceptable as drinking beer and wine. A study shows that American baby boomers are now using marijuana at the same rate as kids ages 12 to 17. We’re not talking about the stoners of our youth.


Yet, I still feel like we’re in a state of surrender.


Marlen Garcia is a member of the Sun-Times Editorial Board.