Solari: More revenue good for municipalities

It looks as though DeKalb will welcome recreational marijuana sales within its limits after the City Council said it would support such a move Monday. Nothing is set in in stone or statute yet, but when it does come to a vote it will probably pass, and with a 3% tax rate to make it worthwhile.

It’s a smart move for the city. Even with the economy riding high, there isn’t a municipality that couldn’t do with more revenue to fund road projects, hire police and fire personnel, pay pension obligations or any of the other expenses a city has. While new or higher taxes almost always cause some amount of shouting, recreational marijuana allows the city a new revenue stream that is essentially voluntary.

Despite one scenario I was taught in anti-drug classes in junior high school, no one has ever forced me to buy drugs. The few times in my life I’ve even been offered, the dealers were pleasant and moved along when I turned them down. No pressure tactics. Certainly no one threatening me with an “or else.”

There is the moral argument against allowing marijuana sales in town. That the town needn’t sell its soul for a few bucks and put its citizens in harm’s way. That marijuana is a slippery slope, a gateway drug to harder drugs.

There is evidence to support that argument. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, studies on rats have shown early exposure to cannabinoids can "prime" the brain for later drugs. However, alcohol and nicotine exposure can also have the same effect, according to the institute. I can buy beer and cigarettes at almost any corner store, and I never hear an outcry against taxes on those items.

Illinois was not the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, and so has other states’ experiences to learn from. Colorado, for example, had tens of millions of dollars flood its coffers to help schools, which is a very good thing. It also did not see a rise in kids using marijuana, which was something people feared.

It was not without negative consequences, however. The number of fatal traffic accidents involving marijuana also increased.

In a way, however, those possible outcomes are not the concern of local municipalities. The General Assembly and the governor voted to make recreational pot legal with all of the available evidence before them and after debating the pros and cons. The deed is done and what is left for localities is how to move forward.

Cities need money, and marijuana has long proved to be something people will buy. To leave that revenue on the table, only to find it in other taxes on property owners or purchases, would be irresponsible.

• Kevin Solari is managing editor of the Daily Chronicle, part of Shaw Media Illinois. Reach him at 815-756-4841 ext. 2221, or email