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Fox River Grove to look into allowing marijuana shops

Mature marijuana plants are seen May 20 flowering prior to harvest under artificial lights at Loving Kindness Farms in Gardena, Calif.
Mature marijuana plants are seen May 20 flowering prior to harvest under artificial lights at Loving Kindness Farms in Gardena, Calif.

The Fox River Grove Village Board decided Thursday that it is willing to entertain the idea of a recreational marijuana dispensary being located in the village.

Now, village staff members are going to investigate and look into the zoning process to find out what kind of regulations and restrictions the village is allowed to put on these types of establishments, said Village Administrator Derek Soderholm.

“This gives staff some direction in terms of where we want to head with this as a board,” he said. “It sounds like the board is interested in allowing an establishment, or more than one establishment, in town so we’re going to put forward the work in order to start that zoning process date in the future so we can meet the statute’s requirements.”

Illinois passed a bill legalizing recreational cannabis in May, and the governor signed it in June. The law goes into effect Jan. 1. Municipalities can opt in to having cannabis shops in their area, however.

The topic generated much discussion during Fox River Grove’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

Village President Robert Nunamaker said he doesn’t want to be the first area in the county to open a marijuana dispensary.

“It would be nice to see somebody else’s experience,” he said, mentioning that other states had legalized marijuana shops to mixed reviews, with some not getting the revenue they expected.

However, he believes that “saying marijuana is different than alcohol or cigarettes has led to a lot of arrests of people who are in fact doing something that doesn’t harm our society as much as alcohol has,” Nunamaker said, ultimately voting in favor of looking into allowing a dispensary.

Some board members expressed concern that new businesses might not want to come to the same area as a marijuana dispensary, although they liked the idea that having one could bring in tax revenue for the village.

Police Chief Eric Waitrovich said at the meeting that there’s a lot of village boards having the same discussions, with law enforcement doing the same.

“We are also like village boards, trying to develop plans on if an establishment ends up in our village or our city, how does this change what we do?” he said. “Depending on what everyone chooses here, we will adapt and be flexible and enforce the law accordingly.”

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