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Daily Journal
     May 12, 2021      #65-132 KDJ

Board OKs pot sales in unincorporated areas 

By Chris Breach

After passionate pleas from both sides of the issue, the Kankakee County Board OK’d an ordinance rescinding an earlier resolution, and it will now allow cannabis businesses within unincorporated areas of the county.

The board voted 15-12 to rescind the earlier resolution at Tuesday’s board meeting at the county administration building. The board voted last year to prohibit the establishment of marijuana dispensaries within unincorporated areas of the county.

“On the state level, marijuana is legal for recreational use,” said board member Jacob Collins, who represents District 13 in Kankakee, before the vote was taken. “And if there’s one person that lives in your district, you have no right to tell them that they cannot open that type of business. These businesses cost millions of dollars to open and to operate, and nobody’s going to come to this area and propose spending millions of their own dollars to open one of these businesses if the demand is not there.”

But the measure had plenty of opposition from fellow board members, including Roger Hess, who also spoke against the issue in executive session in April.

“I had a family member commit suicide,” said Hess, of District 1 in rural Momence. “He started on marijuana. He went to heavy drugs. We feel like we want to tell our views, and our constituents. We want to approve this just because of the revenue, so be it, but I did not receive one negative call for my support to oppose this. Not one person. I figured, hearing from family members. That was not going to be good, but I will oppose this all the way.”

Board member Janis Peters, of District 8 in Manteno, sided with Hess and called marijuana a “gateway drug.”

“Young people are affected more by it long term than older people, so I just will vote no on this,” she said.

Robert Ellington Snipes, of District 18 in Kankakee, said he wasn’t in favor of cannabis businesses in unincorporated areas, but if those businesses were to locate in the incorporated areas, the county would still receive tax dollars. The county will receive just .25 percent of those sales as opposed to 3.75 percent on sales in the unincorporated areas.

“And we don’t have adequate police protection, and you can almost guarantee that there’s going to be some adverse conditions to come in that particular area,” Snipes said.

Others said they heard support from constituents for the legal pot sales.

“I spoke with many people in my district, and I got a resounding ‘yes,’ they would like to have a marijuana dispensary,” said board member Heather Bryan, who represents District 23 in Bourbonnais.

Kenneth Smith, who represents District 27 in Bourbonnais, said he spoke to his constituents the past couple weeks.

“I became aware of some disabled vets in my district who are using [marijuana] for PTSD,” he said. “While I only heard of a couple, I did not speak to everyone in my district. I spoke to different people, I hit a bunch of different areas. I got no negative feedback at all. Everyone was in favor of it, more so than when I had talked in weeks prior. I think we need to move forward on this.”

The next step is for the planning, zoning and agriculture committee to establish criteria for any possible sites for the marijuana dispensaries.

“Once that is put together we’re gonna look at what other areas have done to find suitable parameters for these types of establishments to be operating in,” board chairman Andy Wheeler said.

Board vice president Todd Sirois, who voted in favor, said there are still hurdles to clear.

“I want to remind the board that anywhere they site this place, if we even get one sited, doesn’t mean we’re going to get one sited,” he said. “Anywhere they site this, it has to go through PZA to be approved for siting. ... And there’s been stipulations put up on these places, where they can be, where they can’t be. And I’m sure if the sheriff knows where they’re at, he does a good job and will make sure that there’s patrolmen around it.”

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