KANKAKEE — A Kankakee County committee has deadlocked on whether to allow recreational marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas.
The full county board will ultimately decide the issue.
Opponents of the dispensaries talked about their personal opposition to such businesses, while supporters argued the county should not turn down potential tax revenue.
Under a new state law, recreational marijuana becomes legal Jan. 1.
The county board’s planning, zoning and agriculture committee addressed the issue recently. Zoning official Delbert Skimerhorn told the committee about the possibilities on how to deal with marijuana dispensaries.
If the county wanted such businesses, Skimerhorn recommended it require special-use permits “so you have a lot of control on locations and the ability to place special conditions.”
“When you basically say they won’t be in unincorporated areas, you’re saying they will just be in municipalities. You’re not eliminating cannabis in the county. You’re just saying tax revenue will go to the municipalities that allow them,” Skimerhorn said. “Do you want to shut the door now or leave it open and make a decision on a case-by-case basis?”
He said his office has received three calls about dispensaries in the county’s unincorporated areas, but it has received no actual requests.
“There are landowners considering it,” he said.
Still, he said such businesses would likely choose to set up in the county’s municipalities, which have better prospects.
Committee member Janis Peters, R-Manteno, said she wanted the county board to vote on marijuana dispensaries, rather than have a small committee stop the idea in its tracks.
Others said the marijuana issue would go to the full board regardless.
Member George Washington, D-Kankakee, emphasized the economics.
“Is it not foolish to turn down any legitimate source of income to build the county’s resources from this point on?” he said.
The committee’s chairman, William Olthoff, replied, “The term comes to me ‘Can we be bought?’ I have strong feelings on it.”
The board voted 5-5 on a proposal to outlaw marijuana dispensaries in the unincorporated areas.
Voting to bar dispensaries were Republicans Olthoff, Peters, Ron Kinzinger, Raymond Fairfield and Darrel Smith. Against such a ban were Democrats George Washington and Patricia Polk and Republicans John Fetherling, Joseph Swanson and Andy Wheeler.
At another meeting, the county’s finance committee agreed to charge 3.75 percent for marijuana dispensaries, if they are allowed. The rate is the highest permitted under state law for dispensaries.