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Local News

Will County Board tables vote to ban marijuana businesses

Members yet to decide whether to allow recreational pot businesses

A vote scheduled for Thursday on allowing recreational marijuana businesses in unincorporated Will County likely won’t happen until next month.

The Will County Board chose to table a vote on opting out of allowing recreational marijuana businesses at its meeting Thursday.

The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which the state legislature passed earlier this year, allows local governments to opt out of allowing businesses once recreational marijuana becomes legal Jan. 1 in Illinois. Bolingbrook, Crest Hill, Homer Glen, Lockport, Mokena, New Lenox, Plainfield and Wilmington already have opted out.

Mary Tatroe, the civil division chief at the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, suggested the board table the vote to allow for time to clear up language in the ordinance.

Tatroe explained that, according to the agenda item, the board was voting on banning the sale of recreational marijuana, but the actual ordinance included banning businesses other than sellers, including craft growers, cultivation centers, infuser organizations and transporting organizations. She requested the board send the matter back to the Executive Committee for further discussion.

But a few members pushed back on tabling the decision and argued the board should just decide on regulating and taxing marijuana businesses since the state already had legalized them. Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet, made a motion to remove the vote on banning businesses altogether.

A few Republicans criticized the move and said the board should follow the advice of the state’s attorney’s office and ultimately vote whether to op out.

“These attempts to not bring it for a vote and let the public weigh in is something I have not seen in all my years here,” said Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort.

Ray Tuminello, R-New Lenox, called Ventura’s proposal “ridiculous.” He argued that since the state legislature did not allow Illinois residents to vote directly on legalizing recreational marijuana, then at least the County Board should have an up or down vote on allowing businesses in unincorporated areas.

Jackie Traynere, D-Bolingbrook, said she is in favor of allowing recreational marijuana businesses and was “happy” to take a vote Thursday. She pointed out the language in the ordinance could be subsequently fixed. Beth Rice, D-Bolingbrook, also said she was against tabling the vote.

Speaker Denise Winfrey, D-Joliet, said she preferred to table the discussion and draft a properly worded ordinance. She said this also would give more time for the public to weigh in on the matter.

Moustis made a motion to table the discussion. The board members voted, 20-5, in favor of tabling. Mimi Cowan, D-Naperville; Tyler Marcum, D-Joliet; Beth Rice, D-Bolingbrook; and Traynere and Ventura voted against the motion to table.

The Executive Committee will take up the decision to opt out at its Dec. 12 meeting. The committee can vote to advance the decision to the full board at its Dec. 19 meeting. Winfrey said there also will be a public hearing at the
Dec. 19 meeting on allowing recreational marijuana sales.

In addition to the vote of whether to opt out, the County Board also has to decide on zoning and taxing rules. Winfrey said that regardless of whether the board decides to ban businesses, she would like to see a vote on taxing sales throughout the county. A county tax would be implemented in addition to any tax municipalities pass.

However, Winfrey said she was personally torn on whether to allow businesses in unincorporated areas. She added that the board still had several decisions it needed to make in the next month or so.

“It’s going to be hard,” Winfrey said.

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