A full house came to hear arguments for and against the village of New Lenox allowing the sale of recreational marijuana within its borders.
The New Lenox Board of Trustees held a Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night for residents to give their opinions.
New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann observed after several residents spoke that the comments were “pretty well split.” The village board chambers were filled with people, with many standing in the back listening to the remarks.
“I think it’s important to remain open-minded to hear what people have to say,” Baldermann said.
Baldermann said he is approaching the matter as a “business decision” and not as a moral issue. He said he wanted to hear the pros and cons of how allowing sales could benefit the village as a whole. He also cautioned residents that taxing recreational marijuana sales would benefit them in terms of their property taxes because the village could impose only a sales tax of up to 3%.
John Fisher, 23, said he was in favor of the village allowing marijuana sales because he knew of its benefits for those dealing with depression, insomnia and anxiety. He said he even uses it to treat his fear of public speaking.
Fisher said allowing a dispensary for “this miraculous plant” would benefit the village greatly and provide a safer alternative to illicit products.
“I feel better giving my money to a local business rather than spent on the black market,” Fisher told the board.
Maryann Buonadonna, 72, said she was against the village allowing recreational sales.
Buonadonna said she’s heard about nearby communities opting out of allowing sales. She said that if New Lenox had a dispensary, others from out of town might come to buy marijuana.
“I chose New Lenox because I thought it was a safe community and family-oriented,” she said. “And so far that’s what it’s been.”
The Will County Board is expected to vote on whether it will allow recreational marijuana sales in unincorporated areas at its November meeting.
Baldermann said he thinks New Lenox should consider the actions of surrounding municipalities in regard to marijuana. He said if the County Board allows sales but the village doesn’t, a dispensary could conceivably open right outside of New Lenox’s border, attract customers and not have to pay taxes to the village itself.
Village Trustee David Smith said that while he was for the legalization of recreational marijuana, he had a problem with how the state legislature passed the law to allow it.
“Their past record has not been the best,” Smith said.
He pointed to previous examples such as video gaming, for which the state projected revenue that never came to fruition.
“If it goes south, what are they going to do?” he added.
At the end of the meeting, Baldermann said the board would hold a first reading of an ordinance to opt out at its meeting Monday, during which residents would be able to make further comments on the matter. Baldermann said he and the board will continue to keep an open mind as it weighs the decision and will likely take a vote at its Nov. 11 meeting.