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Prairie Grove to address cannabis ordinance at next meeting

Public comment to be taken before

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 Prairie Grove Village Board will put together a draft ordinance for the next board meeting on having a cannabis dispensary in the village.

In May, the state of Illinois passed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana. Gov. JB Pritzker signed the bill in June and the law goes into effect Jan. 1. Municipalities can opt in, or out, to having cannabis shops in their area, however.

Village attorney David McArdle said the ordinance will include which parts of the village where retail cannabis could be sold. The village has residential, industrial and commercial areas. McArdle said odds are a marijuana shop would be in a commercial area, with conditional use permits.

The Village Board’s next meeting is set for Sept. 18. The Village Board will make a recommendation that will be sent to the planning and zoning commission, McArdle said.

At 6 p.m. before the board meeting, the public will have an opportunity to voice their opinion on whether they want to allow a cannabis dispensary in the village.

“In the first place, we have to decide: do we want it sold in our town, or would we rather prohibit it?” McArdle said. “The board’s leaning toward allowing it ... we’ll see what the public says.”

At a recent board meeting, trustees were supportive of allowing a marijuana dispensary in the village. Some trustees said their reasoning behind their support was because it would be legal in Illinois anyway, and they would want to see the kind of revenue it would bring in to the village.

Trustee Kevin Werner said he is disappointed in the state’s decision to legalize marijuana, but regardless of whether it’s sold in Prairie Grove or not, there will be associated costs with it, especially with the police department.

“Banning sales in the community won’t make it go away,” he said. “[It’ll] just lead the sales elsewhere. Allowing it could provide some revenues to offset some of the additional costs.”

Werner added that the village needs to do its due diligence on the issue.

According to village administrator Mike Freese, the legalization of marijuana will cost the police department money for more training. This includes getting certified for things such as more advanced field sobriety tests.

“It’s kind of a sad picture ... where we might have to take advantage of this, but how do we pay for that additional training?” Freese said. “There’s definitely an expense here for the police department as this goes on.”

Police Chief Tony Colatorti said the legalization of marijuana would “change the whole ballgame,” including on things such as DUIs and accidents.

“If we can benefit from the tax, we probably should,” Colatorti said.

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