KANKAKEE — The Kankakee County Board’s executive committee discussed at length a resolution from last year that prohibits the establishment of marijuana dispensaries within unincorporated areas of the county.
The executive committee was deadlocked by a vote of 7-7 on recommending the full board revisit the issue as an ordinance to rescind the resolution at Tuesday’s meeting in the county administration building.
“So it’s a tie. The chair rules that it go forward with the recommendation to approve,” board chairman Andy Wheeler said. “So that’s the way it will go forward, and we’ll see it on the agenda.”
The ordinance would’ve moved to the full county board regardless of the executive committee’s recommendation. The board will vote on it at its next meeting on May 11.
Board member Kenneth Smith had asked the board to revisit the issue at the April meeting because he felt the county was missing out on sales tax revenue from pot sales.
The county has the potential to reap $650,000 in annual revenue from the sale of marijuana in the county. The local tax would be 3.75%.
“That would be counting money here,” Wheeler said. “... That doesn’t mean here is a [dispensary]. We’re not talking to anybody. It would just be basically putting a fish hook and line in the water so to speak.”
Board member Roger Hess said he opposes the ordinance for cannabis dispensaries.
“I voted against this before, and I’ll vote against it again,” Hess said. “If you’ve never had a family member who started out with cannabis and ended up on hard drugs and shot himself in the head, you will not understand what cannabis does to the young people. I’m just telling you that by fact it’s not good. You can ask the coroner, you can ask the sheriff. This is a starting drug for anything else.”
Board member Antonio Carrico said he previously opposed the dispensaries and will continue to do so.
“I’m not opposed to bringing the revenue to the county as has been expressed,” Carrico said. “I’ll be very much welcomed in any kind of revenue as long as we can analyze the good and the bad side of approving something. So after listening in and evaluating the opinions of residents on my district, I previously voted no. And nothing has changed at this time.”
Other board members said the tax revenue the marijuana would generate should be evaluated.
“For member Hess, I do sympathize with your thoughts and your feelings,” Todd Sirois said. “I would rather see the cannabis market be regulated and taxed. I have a lot of Facebook friends, and there are stores on there where you can just buy it unregulated and untaxed. And so I don’t think that us opposing this would mean that it is disappears from our community.
“I think it just means that it continues to be unregulated and untaxed. ... It’s out there, and it’s easily available.”
County Sheriff Mike Downey said the dispensaries are going to be housed somewhere, and the county has to determine whether it wants to reap the benefits or not.
“Either way, we’ll deal with [the effects], he said. “But we all know that and I know Mr. Hess and other people have had issues with substance abuse in their families. There may be everybody in this room, you can probably point to somebody where substance abuse was a problem in their family or friends or whatever.
“But it’s going to be a matter of whether this board wants to allow the dispensary in Kankakee County to reap that $650,000 or whatever that may be annually or to allow that somewhere else,” he continued. “Be it the coroner, myself and law enforcement, we are going to still deal with the same problems because people go buy it wherever it’s available.”