The topic of recreational marijuana sales in Joliet did not appear to stir much public discussion at a Joliet City Council meeting Tuesday.
The vote that approved sales starting Jan. 1 almost was drowned out by the controversial NorthPoint debate that preceded it.
Members of the public in attendance who were upset about the NorthPoint decision shouted at the City Council and talked loudly among themselves while exiting the chambers when the council began to take up the vote concerning recreational marijuana.
The shouting was so loud that Councilwoman Sherri Reardon, who previously was a ‘no’ vote on marijuana, seconded the motion to approve zoning rules. The new rules authorize recreational marijuana sales when such business becomes legal Jan. 1 in Illinois.
Reardon said Thursday that during the confusion and noise Tuesday she did not realize she was seconding approval of recreational marijuana zoning. However, once she did realize it, she decided to vote for it.
“I see the good on both sides,” Reardon said, adding that she believes more people need access to marijuana for medical reasons than those who can obtain it. “This may actually open it up to people who could use it in medical ways.”
Councilman Michael Turk wound up being the decisive vote on the zoning rules.
In October, Turk was part of a 5-4 majority that approved a 3% marijuana sales tax, sending a green light to city staff to continue working on zoning rules. However, Turk said then that he still was undecided on whether to ultimately approve zoning and allow sales in Joliet.
Turk has heard from people since then, he said, and those who shared their views and concerns with him were close to evenly split on the issue.
He then decided to do some reading on the topic and even talked with medical professionals before voting to approve sales.
“They satisfied all the concerns I had about it being a gateway drug, about overdosing and things like that,” he said. “When I weighed everything, that’s why I made my decision.”
Turk said he was influenced somewhat by the comments of Barry McCue, one of four people who spoke during discussions about recreational marijuana at City Council meetings Monday and Tuesday.
McCue advocated for sales in Joliet, saying that people will be using cannabis, and that tax revenues should be used to address concerns that come with drug use.
“Joliet residents are going to get it and buy it,” Turk said. “As long as it’s going to be legal in the street, we should be able to get the tax revenue from it.”
The state already has approved a business license for 3C Compassionate Care, which dispenses medical marijuana in Joliet.
The license allows 3C Compassionate Care to sell recreational marijuana from its medical facility at 1627 Rock Creek Blvd. The company also has applied to the city for a special use permit to sell recreational marijuana from a former mattress store at 2903 Colorado Ave., a location outside the Louis Joliet Mall.
The zoning rules approved by the City Council allow marijuana sales in major commercial areas and commercial corridors in Joliet.
The rules create buffer areas that must be at least 500 feet between marijuana dispensaries and schools, and at least 250 feet between marijuana dispensaries and homes.
Joliet has not put a cap on the number of dispensaries allowed in the city, although operators must be licensed by the state. The Joliet zoning rules give the city control over approved locations. Prospective business owners must obtain a special-use permit from the City Council to open a store.
Councilwoman Bettye Gavin said she would like to put a cap on the number of dispensaries allowed. City staff has said the zoning rules can be expanded in the future.