Marijuana Decriminalization Virginia (copy)

This Sept. 11, 2018, file photo, shows a marijuana plant grown at in the coastal mountain range of San Luis Obispo, Calif. 

KANKAKEE — Has the first step been taken to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Kankakee?

More will be learned in two weeks when the combined Budget and Ordinance committees meet for a second time on Sept. 24 to determine if the time has come to open up at-home marijuana use in the city.

The group met for the first time Tuesday as it explores what would be needed to allow the use of recreational marijuana. How much money could be raised in terms of taxes and host fees is not yet clear.

Earlier this year, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker cleared the way for communities to allow marijuana sales.

While some communities, such as Naperville, Springfield, Oswego, Brookfield and Libertyville, have said they will not allow the sale of recreational marijuana, others see it as an opportunity.

Kankakee might be one such community.

City attorney Burt Odelson explained how an ordinance allowing this use would look. He explained in what zoning district such a business would need to be located and what type of restrictions the city could place on the business.

Members from the public weighed in on both sides of the issue during the public meeting.

Some stated marijuana is no better nor worse than alcohol sales. Others stated it would lead to more social problems here.

Resident Tom Brands, who spoke against legalization, said the only question city lawmakers need to ask is: Does legalized marijuana use make Kankakee a better place to live?

“I think this is bad for Kankakee. I don’t see how this makes Kankakee a better place,” he said.

While the end result of marijuana use can certainly be debated, Alderman Jim Faford, R-4, said a positive side effect of the sales and tax dollars could be earmarking at least a portion of the money to special funds for the city.

Faford said a certain percentage of sales tax revenues could be earmarked for such things are helping address the woefully underfunded police and fire pension funds.

That suggestion seemed to spark a cord with council members as they have struggled for years to beef up funding in the pension accounts.

Because a conditional use permit would be needed for any retail sales of marijuana, Odelson said he request would need approval from the Kankakee Planning Board and then the Kankakee City Council.

He said the council could also limit the number of retail outlets, the days it would be open and the hours of service. He also said the council could place demands on the property maintenance regarding lighting, signage and landscaping.

One item not up for negotiation is that no one under the age of 21 can purchase marijuana.

The city has been home to a marijuana cultivation complex on its south side along U.S. 49/52. In addition to the cultivation center, Kankakee also is home to Peace of Mind Kankakee, a medical marijuana screening clinic. The clinic helps determine someone’s inclusion in the state medical marijuana program.

Odelson said because this concept is so new in Illinois, he is borrowing ordinance language from communities throughout the country.

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