Spring Valley’s mayor hosted a public forum Wednesday to gauge residents’ interest on the municipal marijuana debate, but based on attendance, it doesn’t appear to be a contentious issue for the city.
A baker’s dozen people showed up in council chambers for the forum, and four of those were planning commission members. When asked by Mayor Walt Marini who would like to speak, a lone woman raised her hand.
Mary Ballerin said she’s a fourth-year medical marijuana card holder. Her thought is that people are going to be buying marijuana come Jan. 1 so why not bring that revenue to Spring Valley.
“I know people who travel over an hour to get it,” she said. “An email was sent that the Ottawa facility (which currently caters to medical patients, but is in line for recreational sales in the new year) will have unprecedented lines the first day.”
Ballerin said the Ottawa location, frequented by current Illinois Valley medical card users is recommending patients in the new year travel to Arlington Heights, which is medical-use only, for their prescriptions to avoid long wait times.
“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” Ballerin said. “A lot of people smoke marijuana and you don’t even know it.”
“You can draw people from Ladd and Cherry and other areas that will come here because it’s less of a drive,” she continued. “Would you rather make the tax money here or bring it to other counties? If you put it in the industrial park, people will come off the interstate to buy it and take it home with them. They won’t bring it downtown; they can’t stand there and smoke it so it won’t hurt downtown. I don’t see a negative on it.”
Local business owner Andrew Martinez stepped up to show his support for bringing cannabis-related businesses to the Valley.
“It’s going to be legal so they’re going to buy it elsewhere and bring it here anyway,” he said.
Martinez, who owns Drewskies and Outer Limitz, said he has plans to open a dispensary and has been studying the new state laws to stay abreast of regulations.
“People are asking me about it already,” he said.
The city’s attorney, Jim Andreoni, said the proposed ordinance follows the Illinois Municipal League’s language almost verbatim, limiting dispensaries and infusers to commercial areas of the city and grow operations to industrial areas. It would prohibit a dispensary or infuser from operating within 250 feet of any residence and 1,500 feet from schools. Any cannabis-related businesses would be subject to special permit from the council.
General discussion from the audience focused more on whether the city would allow smoke lounges, places where marijuana could be consumed, whether it was sold there or brought there by patrons, but Andreoni said the ordinance doesn’t deal with that type operation yet. At this time, the city simply has to decide whether to ban cannabis-related businesses, or set in place the ordinance that will regulate them.
“One of the questions that has come up is whether people can smoke on site (of dispensaries), and the statute prohibits it,” Andreoni said. “Even if the statute allowed it, it’s doubtful businesses would allow it because it becomes a liability issue if people become impaired.”
Andreoni cautioned that the ordinance is just set in place to regulate what may be to come, and nothing is certain to happen locally any time soon.
“I don’t view this as a revenue generator. There’s going to be a very slow roll out on this,” he said, pointing out that only 3 licenses will be available for a six-county area come Jan. 1.
Spring Valley Economic Director Debb Ladgenski asked when a decision would be made by the council, to which Marini said there isn’t yet a set date, but hopefully before the year’s end.
“I think a decision should be made as soon as possible,” Ladgenski said. “The people who want a business can’t apply if the city opts out, so it’s not fair to them.”
Marini agreed, saying in order to be fair to anyone who might want to make an application that a decision needs to be made one way or another.
The planning commission — Rick Fusinatto, Lynda Hansen, Jack McNally and Luke Carls — in a vote after the public forum, agreed to advance their recommendation that the council adopt the ordinance as presented by Andreoni. It will come up for an official vote before the full council at a future meeting.
Kim Shute can be reached at (815) 879-5200 or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow her on Twitter at NT_Princeton2.