ELBURN – After much discussion, the Village Board on Sept. 16 approved an ordinance to allow a marijuana dispensary in Elburn. The vote was 5:2, with trustees Ken Anderson and Bill Grabarek as the two no votes.
The zoning where it will be allowed includes Main Street, general business districts and industrial areas.
A special use permit will be required, which means any potential dispensary owner who wishes to open a business in Elburn will have to come before the Planning Commission including a public hearing to be approved. The Illinois statute to legalize the sale of marijuana within the state includes a vigorous and expensive licensing process, and will become law as of Jan. 1, 2020.
A group of potential dispensary owners has approached village officials about the possibility of locating their business in Elburn, and they are expected to begin the licensing application process.
Board members generally accepted the restrictions the Planning Commission had come up with for the special use permit to bring such a dispensary into town. They include: the prohibition of on-site consumption; a dispensary cannot be located within 150 feet from a school or day care; and one dispensary would be allowed within the village for every 10,000 in population.
The one thing the board did change were the hours of operation from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Other than the overall decision of whether or not to allow it in town, a major discussion point among both residents and village officials has been about where it should be located. A number of people have said they would not want to see one on Main Street.
Several residents attended the Village Board meeting on Sept. 16 to voice their opinions on a possible dispensary in Elburn. One, Mary Hanson, said that although the revenue a dispensary might bring in would be significant, she wondered what the additional costs might be in terms of control and enforcement. She believes that the people who will shop at the dispensary will not come from Elburn, opening up the likelihood of bringing an unwanted element into the town.
Another resident, Julie Potter, a mother of three who moved to Elburn three years ago, also spoke in opposition to the dispensary.
“This is a family community,” she said. “I don’t know how Elburn can even think about putting this in Elburn. I’m a very concerned citizen.”
Trustee Sue Filek said she applauded the people who came forward to say what they felt. She said that if the dispensary ends up locating on Main Street, where it will be more visible, she imagines possibly difficult conversations that she and other parents might have to have with their children about right and wrong and the mixed messages a business such as this sends.
“Years from now, it could be just as accepted as alcohol,” she said, but now, it’s still a federal offense. They’re (the children are) not going to understand.”
Bill Grabarek said that people should be aware that marijuana already is here within the Elburn community, and he would rather have it legalized and controlled rather than being sold on the black market.
“We’ve had marijuana growers illegally in town, and had a major bust in the southeast quadrant a year ago,” he said. “I’d prefer they not have to buy it on the street. Purchasers buying it illegally don’t know what they’re getting.”
However, Grabarek fought hard to table the vote, wishing to allow more time for additional research into the experiences of other states that have already made recreational marijuana use legal. He thought village officials and residents alike could benefit from additional information about what impact this move could have on the culture of the town.
He also wanted to learn more about the potential revenues this business could bring into town, and whether their estimates were realistic about that. The state statute allows a municipality to collect an additional 3 percent tax on sales on top of the already-existing sales tax.
Published data that Village President Jeff Walter found on marijuana sales revenues from Washington State (Statista 2019) when it was made legal there were .76 billion. Projected sales there for 2019 are $1.6 billion, or double the amount three years earlier.
One thing that trustee Pat Schuberg said bothered her was that every time she opened a newspaper, she read about additional changes to the law. She reminded the others, however, that they had similar fears and hand-wringing before allowing video gaming in town.
Filek wondered if having a dispensary on Main Street might have an impact on whether other businesses would want to come to Elburn.
“How do you please everyone?” asked Filek. “People are divided on it. Some people just don’t want to see it."
Schuberg said that what she has seen on social media sites such as Facebook and Next Door has been pretty well divided.
“If we all had a crystal ball, it would make this job a lot easier,” Village President Jeff Walter said.