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Local

Maple Park officials weigh pros, cons of bringing recreational marijuana dispensary to village

Officials consider possibility of tax revenue as surrounding towns also looking into dispensaries

MAPLE PARK – Jen Ward doesn’t want the village of Maple Park to essentially be a thoroughfare for those looking to purchase recreational marijuana beginning next year.

The Maple Park trustee simply wants the sale of it within the village to be considered carefully.

“There are a couple of things to be mindful of and one of them is the sales tax that we would get as a village and if surrounding communities are going to have these businesses, we’re going to be a thoroughfare,” she said. “We should consider capturing some of that revenue. I know Elburn is already considering a dispensary. Our limits are the size of the village and existing parks and churches and zoning. So we’re pretty limited already, but we should stay open-minded. I don’t want to end up being the stop between the surrounding communities that embrace it.”

It looks like some neighbors already have. In Elburn, individuals have begun filing the necessary paperwork to apply for a license, while in Sycamore’s planning commission signed off on a proposed medical marijuana dispensary in March.

“I’m very much for business; however, smart, sensible, welcoming businesses are the best for the village,” Trustee Christian Redbone said. “It’s cause for us to take a great look and a little more depth. I don’t think it would be a bad idea to start discussing residential conflicts and issues and grounds (the police) chief and his staff will face once this becomes effective.”

The new law allows those 21 and older to possess cannabis and purchase cannabis products in licensed stores beginning on Jan. 1, 2020. Possession is limited to 30 grams (1 ounce) of raw product, cannabis-infused product or products containing no more than 500 mg of THC and five grams of concentrated cannabis.

Trustee J.P. Dries voiced his concerns from a police department standpoint, but also acknowledged that more is known about the challenges of recreational marijuana since it’s been legal in Colorado since 2014, agreeing that it’s something that should be discussed further.

“We should just hash all things out,” he said. “From the standpoint of the law, from what I understand Illinois is written pretty well because there was a lot of communication with Colorado and some of the issues they had. There’s always going to be challenges with testing driving-wise and I think some of the biggest challenges are going to be with the police department.”

But there’s also a potential huge benefit of tax dollars coming into the village. Not only can decisions be made on where and who can sell recreation marijuana in Maple Park, but the board can impose a tax of up to 3 percent on sales.

“I just keep hearing three percent and one percent and I think eyeballs are getting bigger because of a potential cash cow and it’s very uneasy, contentious,” Redbone said. “We could all sit down and spend 30 more minutes scrubbing budgets a little better and find that three percent.

“I just think that things could be a misconstrued that board members are sitting around thinking about bringing a pot shop (to Maple Park) when we’re so very far from touching that base per se.”

Village Attorney Kevin Buick advised the board to pay attention to what other towns are doing since this is something that is affecting the entire state.

“There are protections built into the law, particularly with medical cannabis, that prohibit community’s from just saying ‘don’t want it, can’t have it,’” he said. “We can’t eradicate that. I don’t know what the future is going to hold for recreational cannabis, but what I would tell you is this, do not reinvent the wheel. There are communities who will be dealing with this that will be ahead of our curve and we should watch them carefully.”

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