ST. CHARLES – St. Charles aldermen are leaning in favor of allowing the retail sale of marijuana now that recreational marijuana use and possession will be legal starting Jan. 1, 2020.
At the City Council's Aug. 19 Government Operations Committee meeting, aldermen voted 6-3 to direct city staff to begin the zoning process for two recreational sales facilities, one on the east side of St. Charles and one on the west side.
The city's zoning ordinance would have to be changed to allow the retail sale of marijuana.
The city's Plan Commission will now hold a public hearing on the issue. As part of the committee's recommendation, recreation marijuana dispensaries would be allowed as a special use in districts zoned for community businesses and regional businesses and that no more than two dispensaries could be located in the city – one on the east side and one on the west side of the Fox River.
In addition, businesses must have operated a licensed medical marijuana dispensary for at least two years. On-premise consumption lounges and production and distribution facilities would not be permitted as part of the committee's recommendation.
"It’s here whether we like it or not," 1st Ward Alderman Dan Stellato said, in voting in favor of the recommendation. "We can control it with zoning regulations."
Second Ward Alderman Rita Anne Payleitner, who voted against the recommendation said she thought the City Council should "take a pause." She accused state legislators of rushing through the legislation, thinking only of the tax revenues it would generate.
"If we move forward, I would hope that we are more thoughtful in our decision process," she said.
First Ward Alderman Ronald Silkaitis and Second Ward Alderman Arthur Lemke also voted against the recommendation.
Zen Leaf, a medical marijuana dispensary, currently operates at 3714 Illinois Ave. in St. Charles. Speaking on behalf of Zen Leaf, Anthony Marsico told aldermen that it contemplates selling recreational marijuana as well.
"State law allows an additional dispensary that will be only recreational," he said. "They are allowing us to have dual use out of the same location."
Marsico told aldermen that if St. Charles decided not to allow the retail sale of recreational marijuana, the company might move its medical medical dispensary out of the city.
"There are going to be other municipalities that opt in," he said.
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.