Should Kendall County municipalities allow the sale of recreational marijuana in their communities?
As we reported last week, officials in Oswego, the county's largest municipality, are currently conducting an online survey through Wednesday, Aug. 28 to gauge local public opinion on the issue and residents and business owners are invited to offer their comments at the village board's next regularly scheduled committee of the whole meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3.
Meanwhile, the Montgomery Village Board and Yorkville and Plano city councils are now also considering the issue.
Under legislation signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker effective next Jan. 1 the sale and consumption of recreational marijuana will become legal. But the law also contains an opt out provision that gives local municipalities the authority not to permit marijuana sales in their borders. Officials in some communities, including Naperville, Libertyville and Bloomingdale have recently invoked their opt out rights, while others have expressed support including Elburn and South Elgin. In Batavia, Mayor Jeff Scheilke has gone on record as opposed to local marijuana shops, while in nearby St. Charles a majority of the city's alderman have expressed support.
In some respects, the current divergence on the issue on the part of local municipalities is reminiscent of when state lawmakers legalized video gaming a few years ago. Initially, there was some reluctance on the part of officials in some communities--including Oswego and Montgomery--to permit video gaming, however limited. But both villages eventually approved video gaming largely at the request of the Oswego American Legion Post 675 and the Montgomery VFW Post 7452, respectively. Both of those organizations sought the video gaming to provide them with much needed revenues.
Now we see that same reluctance on the part of some municipal officials across Illinois who seem loath to the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana. However, as with video gaming, just saying no to marijuana at the local level will mean also losing out on a new and potentially significant source of municipal sales tax revenue and to, in effect, gift those revenues to other nearby municipalities that will allow it.
We commend Oswego officials for seeking local opinions on the issue through their online survey. Though non-binding, the results will likely prove valuable to village officials in determining their ultimate course of action. Ultimately, we believe the wisest course of action for Kendall County municipalities will be to permit and control recreational marijuana sales, and thereby position themselves to receive the additional sales tax revenue.