DeKalb City Council shows support for pot shops

Tax revenue a draw; Sycamore still undecided on marijuana sales

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DeKALB – City Council members appeared to be united in their desire to allow marijuana dispensaries in DeKalb, with several saying the tax revenue the city could collect is a motivating factor.

City Manager Bill Nicklas said Monday that the City Council should decide sooner rather than later how much tax they want to impose on sales to be able to begin collecting revenue as early as 2020.

“The clock is ticking, in a way,” Nicklas said. “The Illinois Municipal League has speculated that if we are interested in pursuing this, we should be thinking about the level of tax we would impose if we want to be able to collect it before June 1, 2020.”

The council strongly was in support of allowing dispensaries in the city, and council members plan to continue talks on possible locations and the number of licenses the city would allow. The state law legalizing sales of marijuana to adults older than 21 takes effect Jan. 1.

City officials also must determine rules for regulating marijuana use by employees, as well as allowable THC levels for police, fire protection and public works employees a specific concern.

Some aldermen also said permits for marijunana sales should not be as tightly regulated as liquor or video gaming licenses, so to make DeKalb look more appealing to sellers.

Local growers would not be able to advertise within 1,000 feet of school grounds, playgrounds, recreation centers, child care centers, public parks, libraries or video arcades, documents show. No locations have yet been identified for dispensaries.

In addition to retail sales, the state law legalizing pot will allow medical marijuana users to grow up to five plants in their homes, with conditions. Municipalities also would be able to impose an up to 3% tax recreational marijuana sales. Supporters estimate about $500 million a year could be generated statewide in tax revenue.

Although municipalities can decide to allow or prohibit marijuana sales in their communities, they can not pass laws outlawing its use by adults.

Council weighs in on local control

Illinois' Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act regulates six types of businesses: craft growers, cultivation centers, dispensaries, infusers, processors and transporters.

Fifth Ward Alderman Scott McAdams said that he campaigned in support of allowing recreational marijuana use.

“I think we should go forward with it,” McAdams said. “We should charge the full 3% [tax]. Other states have done the same thing and the time to strike is at the beginning. We need the revenue in this city more than any city in the area. I’ve heard nothing but positive support for it so far.”

First Ward Alderman Carolyn Morris said taxing the maximum allowed would mean collecting $3 on $100.

“We should really take a look at state guidelines, try not to regulate as much as possible so we can be as competitive as possible with surrounding areas,” Morris said. “Let’s capitalize on it. No one’s going to be choosing where they go based on the taxes.”

Third Ward Alderman Tracy Smith, a retired 30-year police officer with the city of DeKalb, asked interim DeKalb Police Chief John Petragallo about enforcement concerns.

“I think it’s a little bit early for that,” Petragallo said, adding that his department would receive direction through the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police in late fall.

State law also requires local police departments to automatically expunge criminal history records for minor cannabis offenses (possession of up to 30 grams) before June 25.

“There’s also the expungement of thousands of records,” Smith said. “That’s going to be quite a challenge.”

Fourth Ward Alderman Patrick Fagan said he’d heard from one resident who opposed allowing marijuana sales, but said he would support revenue.

“People will be buying it,” Fagan said. “If we didn’t allow selling it, someone else is going to sell it and we won’t be bringing into the city of DeKalb and collecting tax on it.”

Sycamore still undecided

Mayor Jerry Smith said he recently met with state Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, Sycamore Mayor Curt Lang and representatives from the offices of the DeKalb County Sheriff and State’s Attorney to discuss county strategy.

“We said, ‘Let’s stay ahead of this thing as municipalities decide whether or not recreational use of cannabis and dispensaries makes sense for our communities,’ ” Smith said.

In Sycamore, Lang said Tuesday that he expects pot will be a topic of discussion on a Sycamore City Council agenda sometime in the fall.

“At this point, I don’t know that we have any indication of what we’re going to do,” Lang said. “Our council would have to make that decision and weigh the benefits. There’s a lot of factors.”

Lang admitted his personal views may not align with the Sycamore council's, but it's too early to tell where the city will go on the issue. He has previously said he would not support dispensaries in Sycamore.