Though marijuana will be legalized statewide, Naperville is preparing to opt out of the retail sale of recreational adult-use cannabis.
At the most recent Naperville City Council meeting, the dais heard from several speakers on the issue, including Grassroots Cannabis and Green Thumb Industries. Green Thumb currently operates Naperville’s only medical cannabis dispensary, while Grassroots petitioned to open a location somewhere around Route 59.
Other public speakers felt allowing cannabis sales would hurt Naperville’s brand as a family-friendly city.
“This is the first step towards not becoming a kid-friendly city if you pass this thing,” said Naperville resident Dick Furstenau. “So my preferred would be to go to option 2, take a nice vote, and forget about this stuff.”
The discussion frequently got off topic, turning into a debate over whether recreational marijuana should be allowed in the city – a decision that’s out of the hands of Naperville policymakers.
“It’s hard to quarrel with the cost to society for the use of any drugs whether it be alcohol, tobacco or marijuana,” said Mayor Steve Chirico. “But that horse has left the barn. They’re all going to be legal January 1. And there’s not much we can do about that.”
Others felt that wasn’t necessarily true.
“Naperville has an exceptionally strong reputation,” said Councilman Kevin Coyne. “I think we’re in a position where we’re viewed as being very credible and I think there’s an opportunity that if we were to reject this particular idea and notion that we would encourage the sale of marijuana, I think other communities may as well and I think ultimately that could lead to policy changes in our capitol.”
Multiple councilmembers argued the sale would give the city more control over the drug compared to marijuana sold illegally or brought in from neighboring towns.
“If we allow it to be sold here, we can control a whole lot of stuff as far as – we can look at the regulations and the restrictions and the controls,” said Councilman Benny White. “It kind of protects consumers that want to buy it.”
Council Opts Out
After each councilmember spoke on the issue, a narrow vote of 5-4 was reached to prepare documentation to opt out of the sale. The sticking point for multiple councilmembers was a lack of data on municipalities that opt out in states that have legalized pot.
“On the issue of opting out and neighboring municipalities opting in, I think it’s clear we don’t have data on that. I would submit that we should try to get that data,” said Councilman Patrick Kelly. “And if we don’t have it, I think the more prudent approach is to opt out and wait to get that data rather than to opt in and guess at it or just not know.”
Kelly said he could potentially change his vote in the future depending on that information.
City staff will return with a documentation to prohibit recreational marijuana sales at a future meeting.
Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski.
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