By Chris Hotchkin
On January 1, 2020, it will be legal to purchase, possess, and use recreational cannabis in Illinois. The selling of cannabis will be regulated and taxed by the state and municipalities within the state. Municipalities across the state are currently engaging in debate as to whether to permit licensed cannabis vendors within certain zones within their villages or towns–whether to “opt in” or “opt out” of this potential sales tax revenue. Municipal governments that decide to allow cannabis businesses to operate within their municipality will be entitled to place an additional tax on cannabis-related sales of up to 3% of sales, in addition to the sales tax charged on ordinary goods. It is estimated that in our area this sales tax revenue could be as much as half a million dollars per year per cannabis business.
The Downers Grove Village Council recently began and abruptly ended consideration of opting in or out of permitting cannabis businesses within the village. Downers Grove would have been allowed to issue permits to three cannabis businesses. Voting on a motion to ask the Downers Grove Plan Commission to review and consider at a public hearing the zoning regulations, potential revenue and costs for permitting cannabis businesses, four of the seven members of the Downers Grove Village Council voted to halt the process of gathering information, and then voted to direct staff to draft an ordinance that would prohibit cannabis businesses within any zone in Downers Grove. This came just one week after five council members supported forwarding the issue to the Plan Commission.
During discussion, all members, including the four who voted to stop the process and abruptly opt out, acknowledged that they had received numerous contacts from the residents of Downers Grove, and that at least 50% to 60% had said they favored exploring the zoning of cannabis businesses in Downers Grove in order to benefit from the sales tax revenue. Four members of the Downers Grove Village Council decided not to allow a public hearing on the matter, decided not to allow their Plan Commission to investigate the potential revenue benefits and costs of having a cannabis business within Downers Grove, decided not to listen to the majority of constituents who had contacted them, and instead decided to impose their own will upon the taxpayers of Downer Grove. Not exactly democracy in action.
Commissioner Greg Hose, Commissioner Leslie Sadowski-Fugitt, and Mayor Bob Barnett voted to ask the Plan Commission of Downers Grove to hold a public hearing and to gather more information. Although they were outvoted, we can appreciate their willingness to listen to the taxpayers and voters and to be open to receiving more information regarding the issue.
The issue is not yet decided. The Village Council will soon consider a draft ordinance to prohibit cannabis-based businesses. Please e-mail or call the Village Council and give them your opinion!