ST. CHARLES – St. Charles aldermen began discussing Aug. 5 whether the city should allow the retail sale of marijuana now that recreational marijuana use and possession will be legal starting Jan. 1, 2020.
Aldermen on the St. Charles City Council’s Government Operations Committee began discussing the issue during their meeting. They will further discuss the issue during their next meeting Aug. 19.
If recreational marijuana sales are prohibited in St. Charles, no retail sites would be allowed to sell marijuana products for recreational use. There currently is one medical marijuana dispensary in St. Charles.
St. Charles Police Chief James Keegan talked to aldermen about the potential impact of marijuana dispensaries on police operations. Regarding the medical marijuana dispensary located on Illinois Avenue near 38th Avenue, he said police have only had to respond to two calls, each involving the same person who had their use status revoked by the state.
“The person in question had to be escorted off the premises and then returned one other time uninvited,” Keegan said. “These are the only two calls originating from this facility.”
Beginning Jan. 1, the law will allow Illinois residents 21 and older to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana per Illinois resident. Residents also will be able to possess 5 grams of cannabis concentrate and up to 500 milligrams of THC – the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the high sensation – contained in a cannabis-infused product. Nonresidents can possess half those amounts.
Registered medical marijuana patients will be allowed to grow up to five cannabis plants in their home and possess more than 30 grams of cannabis if it is grown and secured in their residence under certain conditions.
Drivers will be subject to DUI charges only if they have five or more nanograms of THC in their blood or 10 or more nanograms of THC in their saliva, Keegan said.
Keegan also told aldermen that roadside field sobriety and chemical testing for drug-related impairment lags far behind alcohol-related technology and training.
“I think the technology will catch up, but right now it is not there,” Keegan said. “I think whether we opt in or not, we are going to deal with it. It is the law.”
He did recommend that aldermen not allow sampling in businesses that sell recreational marijuana. St. Charles Fire Chief Joseph Schelstreet told aldermen that many areas in which marijuana has been legalized have seen up to a doubling of emergency department visits for marijuana-based complaints.
“These complaints pertain to possible marijuana toxicity or associated trauma experienced by people who have ingested edibles containing THC or who have inhaled smoke from a variety of different methods,” he said.
In 2018, the department responded to two marijuana overdoses.
“Based upon available data, the fire department does not believe that allowing the sale of marijuana and associated products will increase call volume to the extent that additional resources will be necessary,” he said.
The city would be able to enact a local sales tax up to 3% on marijuana sales. According to St. Charles Finance Director Chris Minick, the city could see $50,000 in revenue for every $1 million of recreational marijuana sales.
Rita Tungare, the city’s director of community and economic development, told aldermen that they could confine the sale of recreational marijuana to certain areas in the city along with deciding if on-premise consumption should be permitted or not.
In addition, aldermen could decide whether to regulate marijuana dispensaries or production facilities as special uses in order to impose further restrictions on the location and operation of the businesses. Those rules could include putting limits on the number of marijuana business establishments, time of business operations and distance limitations from sensitive land uses such as schools or houses.