The Crystal Lake City Council OK’d allowing more than two marijuana dispensaries within city limits at its meeting Tuesday evening.
The ordinance approved with a 5-2 vote also lessens the buffers required between a marijuana business and any places considered “sensitive uses,” such as schools, day cares, parks, libraries, recovery homes, religious establishments and residentially zoned properties. While Crystal Lake’s original buffer was 500 feet, the ordinance dropped it to 250 feet.
Council members Brett Hopkins and Mandy Montford were the two no votes on the ordinance.
Hopkins said he’d like to stick with the two-dispensary limit the city had because legal marijuana is still a relatively new concept in Illinois.
The General Assembly passed legislation allowing for recreational marijuana use in 2019, with the law officially becoming effective in 2020. Crystal Lake approved its first dispensary and McHenry County’s second at the former Culver’s site on 501 Pingree Road in October.
Noting this dispensary, to be called AmeriCanna Dream, hasn’t opened yet, Hopkins said he wants to see and understand how these businesses operate in the city.
“At a later time, [if] we want to open up to more, we certainly can,” Hopkins said. “At this point in time, I don’t think it’s necessary for us to even move on it.”
When it came to changing the 500-foot buffer, Hopkins said he’d like to see individual marijuana businesses come in front of the city with a variation to change this instead of lessening it in general.
“For now, I think 500 feet works because again, it gives us eyeballs on it,” Hopkins said.
However, some city council members bristled at limiting potential new businesses within the city. Others said there isn’t a reason to limit the number of marijuana dispensaries in Crystal Lake as there isn’t a high likelihood of the city getting more than two anyway.
“The investment in these dispensaries is not anything to sneeze at,” Crystal Lake Mayor Haig Haleblian said. “It’s a very expensive proposition between the security that is required, the personnel and so on. I just don’t see that this is going to be become a real big issue. I think the market’s pretty much going to dictate the number of dispensaries that come in.”
About three or four other individuals have also inquired about opening a dispensary in Crystal Lake, but this doesn’t mean all of them will end up in the city, Community Development Director Katie Cowlin told council members.
Crystal Lake staff always receives a flux of these kinds of inquiries when the state issues new dispensary licenses, Cowlin said.
“It does have its peaks and flows,” she said.
Council member Ellen Brady said the City Council initially restricted the number of allowed marijuana dispensaries to two because they were told that dispensary owners wouldn’t come to town unless they had this limit.
“I think we’ve now discovered that’s not the truth,” she said. “I don’t think that we really have to worry that we’re ever going to have more than two because the licenses are so restrictive that they’re not going to sell themselves short and put themselves into competitive positions.”
Liquor stores don’t have the same kinds of restrictions marijuana businesses do, Brady said.
“In my mind, I view them the same,” she said. “They are both equal now by the state and so I feel that they should be treated equally.”
Council member Mandy Montford said she would hate to be discriminatory toward a certain business class, but while the city has had many years of experience dealing with places that sell alcohol, it doesn’t have the same with marijuana dispensaries.
“It’s so new,” she said. “Why would we rush to make an unlimited number? I agree, the market’s going to dictate [it], I just think we don’t know what we don’t know yet.”