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Local

LaSalle County says no to pot businesses in unincorporated areas

Vote affects only unincorporated areas

In this March 22, 2019, file photo, a marijuana plant grows at the Compassionate Care Foundation's grow house in Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
In this March 22, 2019, file photo, a marijuana plant grows at the Compassionate Care Foundation's grow house in Egg Harbor Township, N.J.

The LaSalle County Board this month voted, 20-7, to prohibit recreational marijuana businesses from operating in unincorporated areas. It’s the same move that the Grundy County Board made in the fall.

The vote affects only unincorporated parts of the county.

The state’s new Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, gives municipalites the authority to regulate cultivators, growers, infusers and dispensaries inside their boundaries. That means the new county ordinace will not affect the dispensary in Ottawa, which operates within the city’s limits.

Board member Tom Walsh, D-Ottawa, suggested a motion to create an advisory referendum that LaSalle County residents would have to vote on during the November election.

“Make a decision today!” said board member Jerry Myers, R-Streator, raising his voice. “Stop kicking it down the road! I’m voting ‘yes’ [on prohibition] … If you would have told me one day that I’d be on a legislative body to OK cannabis and its use, I’d say you’re nuts. How is this a good thing to do?”

Myers was the most passionate of those in favor of prohibition. Board Member Mike Kasap, D-LaSalle, said the capitalist in him makes it difficult to vote against allowing somebody trying to achieve wealth inside the confines of the new law.

“Look, we don’t have to be in favor of this, but if someone has the bucks and wants to get involved in recreational sales, he can do just that. As we go through the appeals process, we can put any special permissions on this,” Kasap said, adding that prohibition seems too similar to the temperance movement.

“We all know how that worked out,” he said.

Board member Joseph Witczak, D-Peru, pointed out that the county already regulates what businesses can act in what zoning districts, so marijuana regulation would fall under a similar jurisdiction.

Board member Randy Freeman, R-Lostant, voted against the prohibition, saying the decision to legalize has already been made, and playing the “morality police” isn’t why they’re there.

No businesses have inquired about opening in unincorporated LaSalle County. LaSalle County will collect 3% tax on marijuana sales within the county.

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