Local officials discussing how new marijuana law would impact municipalities

Local municipalities to discuss local impacts of recreational pot

Editor’s note: This is part two of two stories on the potential local effects of recreational marijuana. Part one ran Sunday.

McHenry County municipalities are mulling the impacts of the likely legalization of recreational marijuana.

House Bill 1438, which allows adults ages 21 and older to possess and buy marijuana products from licensed retailers is awaiting Gov. J.B. Pritzker's signature. Pritzker has made marijuana legalization a cornerstone of his agenda.

Under the bill, Illinois residents would be allowed to buy and possess 30 grams of marijuana, 250 milligrams of THC in a cannabis-infused product and 2.5 grams of a concentrated cannabis product. Nonresidents would be allowed to buy half of those amounts.

But it’s unclear if pot shops will begin popping up in McHenry County anytime soon.

Existing medical marijuana dispensaries

Existing medical marijuana dispensaries will have the first chance to broach the market. Dispensaries can apply for an early approval license within 60 days after the act is effective. Sales could begin no sooner than Jan. 1, 2020.

Existing dispensaries also will be able to apply for a secondary site license. The site can't be within
1,500 feet of an existing medical or another recreational adult use dispensary, according to the bill.

Developers who wish to create new dispensaries will have to apply for a conditional adult-use license. Applications for those will be available in October, and the state must issue 75 licenses by May 2020, according to the bill.

By December 2021, the state will issue up to 110 conditional licenses, according to the bill.

A cap of 500 dispensaries statewide is written into the bill.

Where the dispensaries will be allowed to go is determined regionally based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data. A total of 47 conditional adult-use licenses will be allowed in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin BLS region, which includes McHenry County, according to the bill.

As of June 30, 2018, there were
55 licensed medical dispensaries in Illinois. There are an additional
22 licensed, operating cultivation centers, according to latest available data from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Total retail sales from 2015 to June, 2018, totalled more than $184 million dollars, according to the department.

The closest medical marijuana dispensary to McHenry County is in the village of Mundelein.

‘We have a lot of evaluating to do’

Local officials say they have been watching the issue but it’s unclear how the legislation will impact McHenry County.

Harvard City Council likely will discuss the matter this month, City Administrator Dave Nelson said.

“If [council members] don’t have any issues with it, we don’t have to do anything,” Nelson said. “In the event they get a client to retail here, there is a tax on that, and that’s another discussion.”

Municipalities can impose a local tax on recreational marijuana, under the bill. They cannot ban its use but can enact ordinances to regulate where the shops are allowed to open.

“A unit of local government, including a home-rule or non-home-rule county within the unincorporated territory of the county may enact ordinances to prohibit or significantly limit a cannabis business establishment’s location,” according to a portion of the bill.

Inquiries about launching a marijuana business in Harvard have already come in, said Charles Eldredge, director of the Harvard-Woodstock enterprise zone.

He said several potential growers had approached him about the possibilities and were looking at sites within the enterprise zone.

“The city of Harvard has expressed to me that they would be very open to a grow facility located in the enterprise zone,” Eldredge said.

The Woodstock City Council discussed the matter at a recent workshop, but a clear stance on the issue hasn’t yet emerged, City Manager Roscoe Stelford said.

“We have a lot of evaluating to do,” Stelford said. “My understanding of the law is that you can’t ban the use. You can only ban the sale. There will be communities that allow it because it’s now lawful, and you will see the impact ... but we still need to do more research. It’s still so new.”

Past proposals

Developers in the past have proposed medical marijuana facilities in Woodstock, Algonquin and McHenry. All were supported on a local level, but the businesses never materialized.

In Algonquin, the proposed medical dispensary developer had problems getting state approval, Village President John Schmitt said.

He said that the Village Board hasn’t yet discussed the impact of legalized recreational marijuana.

“We have that site already identified, so I am guessing that conversation will take place,” he said.

In McHenry, financing stalled the development, Mayor Wayne Jett said.

“The gentleman looking to open had some financial issues in getting it done,” Jett said. “Since then, there have been discussions and people approaching us as far as a [medical] dispensary but nothing set in stone.”

He said the city had met with police and other organizations to discuss the effects of recreational legalization but would have to talk about it more when the bill was officially passed.

McHenry County officials don’t expect to face much pressure from dispensary developers because there isn’t a lot of retail space in unincorporated area of the county, County Administrator Pete Austin said.

However, as one of the county’s largest employers, a different discussion will have to take place.

“There are all kinds of associated concerns with what our personnel manual says, and what our union contracts say and how those interact with state laws,” he said.