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Local

Grundy County Board says no to recreational pot sales

Members still seek public input on issue

A supporter of recreational marijuana displays a button during a meeting on cannabis in New Lenox recently. The Grundy County Board has opted to ban local recreational pot sales, while the city of Morris recently voted to allow those sales.
A supporter of recreational marijuana displays a button during a meeting on cannabis in New Lenox recently. The Grundy County Board has opted to ban local recreational pot sales, while the city of Morris recently voted to allow those sales.

Local residents looking to partake in adult use recreational cannabis once it becomes legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020 won't be able to buy that product in unincorporated Grundy County.

On Tuesday, in a 14-4 vote, the Grundy County Board approved a text amendment prohibiting all sales of recreational cannabis in unincorporated Grundy County. Board members Ann Gill, Mike Onorato, Jim Ryan, and James Olson were the no votes against the measure to ban sales in areas under the jurisdiction of the board.

The text amendment prohibits cannabis growers, cultivation centers, dispensing organizations, infuser organizations, processing organizations, and transporting organizations. The amendment includes language that "the strong smell of marijuana creates an attractive nuisance, alerting persons to the location of valuable plants, and creating a risk of burglary, robbery or armed robber."

"Some of the [text amendment] statements were from studies from Colorado after they had approved in regard to some of the issues that they have had," Land Use Director Heidi Miller explained in the presentation of the ordinance. "We also received through the Grundy County Board of Health a statement... which stated their position with regard to the sale of cannabis that it would include negative health issues and so forth."

But while the vote prohibits sales in unincorporated Grundy County, board members said they didn't want the issue to end there. Board member Jim Ryan said he'd like to bring the issue to Grundy County voters via a referendum on whether to ban or not to ban.

"This is just a way to ask the voters to weigh in on the issue," Ryan said. "It's a non-binding question, so, basically the results will not be binding but will allow the board to gauge public opinion in the matter."

Board chair Chris Balkema was in favor of the idea, noting that a referendum question would allow additional public input to filter to the board.

"If we ban it tonight, with a very easy vote in the future if the voters speak if we get more information, we could always allow it in the future," Balkema said.

The referendum question will move through the law and justice committee. The full board is expected to decide in December how to place the issue on an upcoming ballot.

The move only prohibits the sale of cannabis in unincorporated areas of Grundy County, not consumption. Consumption becomes legal statewide in 2020, per the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. The law does not allow for public consumption, however, private consumption by adults is legal in all jurisdictions in the state.

Municipalities and county boards across the state were taxed with the decision on whether to allow the sales within their jurisdictions. Last week, the city of Morris became the first jurisdiction in Grundy County to vote to allow recreational sales inside its corporate limit.

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