Lockport looks to join a growing list of local municipalities in prohibiting local recreational marijuana sales.
Most of the City Council, along with Mayor Steven Streit, said they planned to vote to opt out of legalizing pot sales, during a discussion at the workshop portion of its meeting Wednesday night.
Illinois’ new Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act legalizing the sale and use of recreational marijuana for people 21 and older will take effect Jan. 1. Local towns will not be able to stop people from privately using marijuana, but they can restrict the cultivation and sale of it in their jurisdiction.
Naperville, Bolingbrook and Wilmington have already opted out, and Plainfield and Shorewood are likely headed that way. Joliet on Tuesday night approved a 3% tax on recreational marijuana sales but has not yet voted on allowing the sale of the drug.
City Attorney Sonni Williams said Lockport would be able to change its mind and opt in later. Streit asked Williams to prepare an ordinance for an opt-out to be presented to the City Council for discussion and a possible vote at its Oct. 16 meeting.
Council members Renee Saban, Larry Schreiber, JR Gillogly, Mark Lobes, Joanne Bartelsen and Catherine Perretta said they wanted to opt out.
Alderwoman Christina Bergbower said she needed to go over feedback she had received from residents before voicing an opinion.
Alderman Darren Deskin said he was against opting out and would like to have an advisory referendum to get the pulse of the community on the issue. No residents spoke at the sparsely attended meeting.
“I don’t like when the government chest thumps,” Deskin said.
Streit, Lobes and Gillogly, said they were elected to make these decisions.
“To opt out, to make a decision is not chest thumping,” Streit said. “It’s what we are asked to do.”
Streit also said the referendum process would take too long since the city needs to decide before Jan. 1.
Deskin also said he would back an ordinance allowing marijuana dispensaries only in its M-2 zoned areas, which is the Chevron property just north of downtown. Deskin said he did not think Lockport had enough population for it to be in high demand for those looking to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a dispensary.
However, an attorney spoke at the meeting for a client who is ready to open a dispensary in town if the city chooses not to opt out.
Nick Frenzel said that Edward Gal – a real estate broker from Palos Hills – already has secured property in Lockport for a dispensary if the city would allow him to move forward.
Frenzel said that by opting out the city would not capitalize on tax revenues that would come with the multimillion-dollar marijuana businesses, and that its own residents would be going elsewhere to purchase pot.
Anthony Weiner, an addiction specialist, also spoke at the meeting and urged the council to opt out for now and wait to see what the effect of the proliferation of legal pot shops would have on communities.
“What do you want to be a part of? What do you want to encourage?” Weiner asked.
Police Chief Terry Lemming also urged the City Council to opt out and “wait and see.”
Separately, after weeks of debate, a split City Council – on a 5-3 vote – approved its new regulations for video gambling.
Deskin, Gillogly and Bergbower voted against the new ordinance, which places several additional restrictions on new video gambling businesses. It will limit new video gaming licenses to only businesses with a C-2 liquor license, defined as a restaurant with entertainment.
Deskin made a motion to amend the ordinance to include new businesses with A-1 and B-2 liquor licenses – bars and bars with entertainment. This was voted down, with only Gillogly and Bergbower voting with Deskin.
Some bar owners with these licenses and video gaming terminals were not happy about the change.
Jackie Hennessy of Jackie’s Pub and Karen Chmielewski of Uncle Richie’s Place – both bars with A-1 licenses – said after the meeting that the new restriction would decrease the resale value of their businesses because their revenues from video gaming could not be considered.
Hennessy also said she did not believe there should be any gambling in restaurants with children, as opposed to bars like hers, which only serves those 21 and older.