By Dee Longfellow

For The Elmhurst Independent

 

On the evening of Monday, Aug. 26, the Development Planning & Zoning Committee of the Elmhurst City Council held a public meeting to discuss the possibility of a City-wide ordinance regarding the upcoming legalization of cannabis, which will be effective January 1, 2020.

Signed into law by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker on June 25, Public Act 101-0027 created the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which legalizes the possession and private use of cannabis for Illinois residents older than 21 years of age, after the first of the year.

According to a document released by the Illinois Municipal League, municipalities may not restrict the private consumption of cannabis as authorized by law, but it prohibits the use of cannabis in public places, schools and child care facilities, among other locations.

Municipalities may adopt and enforce local ordinances to regulate possession and public consumption of cannabis so long as the regulations and penalties are consistent with the Act. The Act preserves local zoning authority and directly authorizes municipalities to prohibit (opt out) or significantly limit the location of cannabis businesses by ordinance. This would include the authority to opt out of either commercial production or distribution (dispensaries) of adult-use cannabis within their jurisdiction.

Municipalities also may enact zoning ordinances and regulations designating the time, place, manner and number of cannabis business operations, including minimum distances between locations through conditional use permits.

 

Residents offer their own findings

At press time, the Independent was able to obtain comments from residents who had submitted comments in writing to the City.

Elmhurst resident Sarah Dacre said she did not support storefront sale of recreational marijuana in Elmhurst and worries that Elmhurst will be the “recreational marijuana retail guinea pig” of the western suburbs.

“We are already located along the heroin highway,” Dacre said. “Our location may draw in a darker group of people than those just looking for a weekend smoke.”

“As much as the industry claims that sales will be limited to those over 21, data show that in areas that have legalized marijuana, usage rates among youth ages 12-18 have also increased,” said Kim Knable, who cited information from learnaboutsam.org and others. “Marijuana is harmful to the developing brain. Its use is associated with an increase in school-drop out rates, depression, and psychosis. Marijuana edibles are often sold in kid-appealing versions such as colorful sodas, gummies and cookies.”

Resident Dana Udovich offered these statistics about other states that have legalized cannabis:

  • The percentage of Washington state traffic fatalities where the driver tested positive for recent pot use more than doubled the year legal pot sales began. (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 2016)
  • Hospitalizations related to marijuana have increased 70% since legalization in Colorado.
  • For 2 years in a row, Colorado has led the nation among 12- to 17-year-olds trying marijuana for the first time. (National Survey of Drug Use and Health, State Estimates, 2015-2016)

Some additional noteworthy points:

  • A 2018 study from Centennial Institute in Colorado indicates that for every $1 in tax revenue generated by recreational marijuana sales, there are $4.50 in mitigating expenses to the taxpayers of Colorado in the form of increases in mental and physical healthcare expenses, auto accidents (including fatalities), increased need for law enforcement, increased car insurance premiums, need for more training and education, increased homelessness, increased school drop-out rates, as well as many other areas. (ccu.edu/centennial/policy-briefs/marijuana-costs/)

“Marijuana sales are a cash only business,” Knable said. “As such, many stores and customers have large amounts of cash on hand. These shops and customers are a target for crime.

“I think the future of the youth of our community is more important than the potential tax revenue that this can bring in. Elmhurst voted in the past to not allow video gambling because is was not a net benefit to the city.”

 

 

 

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