One of the provisions in Illinois’ new law that legalizes recreational marijuana use also permits cities, villages and counties to “opt out” of allowing retail stores within their jurisdiction. It’s not unlike laws and ordinances, once prevalent in Illinois, that prohibited the sale of alcohol.
At least two Illinois communities have provisionally gone on record against allowing marijuana dispensaries and retail outlets from doing business within their borders. A provision in the state’s new recreational marijuana law doesn’t permit municipalities to outlaw marijuana use, but it allows them to ban the business of marijuana.
There is a cost in terms of lost tax revenue to prohibition. Municipalities are allowed to levy up to a 3 percent tax on recreational marijuana sales.
But city council members in Naperville and Morton — just as council members in Champaign and Urbana did in 1907 when they enacted liquor prohibition here — dismissed the promise of a financial windfall.
“The true cost is not opting out and sitting on our hands until this is forced upon us,” Naperville council member Patty Gustin said in support of the prohibition that got tentative approval from her colleagues last week on a 5-4 vote. “There’s no dollar amount worth selling out our kids.”
Another council member, Theresa Sullivan, said it was important to preserve Naperville’s “brand” as a family friendly community.
“It’s an economic engine for us to keep that brand where it is,” she said. “I want to protect the brand, and I just don’t see that selling marijuana is going to do anything for our brand.”
Village board members in Morton, near Peoria, voted unanimously to outlaw recreational marijuana businesses.
“These businesses are not something Morton residents want,” said Mayor Jeff Kauffman, “just like video gambling.”
Morton also has banned video gaming machines.
Undoubtedly, there will be more Illinois community leaders voting to opt out of recreational marijuana sales, just as leaders before them did generations ago. The state will be a patchwork of marijuana sales, although not of marijuana use.