The City Council this week took what was described as a vote to send a message on recreational marijuana, and it was a mixed message.
The council on Tuesday voted 5-4 – with Mayor Bob O’Dekirk casting a yes vote to break a tie – to approve a 3% retail tax on recreational marijuana sales.
But the city has yet to vote on whether to allow the sale of recreational marijuana.
“It seems like it’s putting the cart before the horse,” said council member Jan Quillman, who voted against the tax.
Interim City Manager Steve Jones told the council at its workshop meeting on Monday that a vote on the tax before a final decision on recreational marijuana sales would send a signal on whether the council was open to the idea.
But it may be difficult to forecast how that final vote will turn out.
Council member Michael Turk voted to approve the tax but noted that he still has questions and was not committed to approving the sale of recreational marijuana.
Besides the mayor and Turk, other council members voting yes were Donald Dickinson, Bettye Gavin and Terry Morris. Others besides Quillman voting no were Larry Hug, Pat Mudron and Sherri Reardon.
City staff is preparing zoning regulations for sales of recreational marijuana for a public hearing at the Plan Commission meeting at 4 p.m. Oct. 17.
Zoning regulations would determine where such stores would be allowed. Such regulations are likely to include buffer zones between sales locations and schools. City staff also recommended special use permits for marijuana sales.
A Plan Commission vote would not be final but would serve as a recommendation to the City Council, which would have the final vote on what zoning regulations Joliet should have or whether recreational marijuana sales should be allowed at all.
Police Chief Al Roechner said the police department would back any decision the council makes but said the department opposes the sale of recreational marijuana. He said the department was opposed even before the state legislature voted to allow recreational use of marijuana.
Adult use of marijuana for recreational purposes will be allowed in Illinois starting Jan. 1. Local communities cannot ban adult use, but they can prohibit sales.
Roechner cited a report showing what he called “staggering numbers” indicating increased overdoses, fatalities and violent crime associated with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado.
The city has estimated that the 3% retail tax on marijuana would generate about
$1 million a year.