By Bob Uphues
With a unanimous 6-0 vote at their meeting on Sept. 23, Brookfield village trustees paved the way for the sale of recreational cannabis when it becomes legal on Jan. 1, 2020. Trustees all voted against a resolution prohibiting cannabis-related businesses from operating within the village's boundaries and then voted to pass a resolution to allow it and regulate it.
Those regulations, which would involve amending the village's zoning code, will be hammered out initially at a public hearing before the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission.
While the hearing date has not yet been set, it is expected to be placed on the agenda for the Planning and Zoning Commission's meeting on Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at Brookfield Village Hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave.
Trustees at the same time, also voted unanimously to impose a 3 percent local tax on the retail sale of cannabis in Brookfield, in addition to any taxes the state or county may impose.
The 3 percent figure is the maximum amount municipalities can impose, per state law, as a local cannabis sales tax.
On voting to allow the sale of cannabis for recreation purposes in Brookfield, trustees made clear that their decision to do so was not based on personal feelings about the use of cannabis.
"It's about listening to the resident input that we've gotten, meshing it with what our knowledge and common experience is, talking to staff and trying to make the right decision for our town," said Trustee Michael Garvey, who added that while his personal feelings about the use of cannabis might differ, he was not about to tell other adults they weren't free to participate in something the state has declared to be legal.
He said if the village outlawed the sale of cannabis, it might as well outlaw the sale of alcohol and close down local pharmacies, which dispense opioids, whose misuse has become epidemic throughout the nation.
The village board allowing the sale of recreational cannabis to adults, he said, does not send a message that the village encourages minors to use cannabis or promote its use.
"That's putting something on us that's just not right," Garvey said. "It's not our role to be the parents and police of everybody in town."
Trustees Edward Cote and David LeClere also spoke in favor of allowing the sale of recreational cannabis in Brookfield. Cote said the village board's decision on Sept. 23 would allow the Planning and Zoning Commission to work out appropriate regulations for the location of such businesses, while LeClere said he's heard widespread support from residents for allowing a cannabis dispensary in town.
"I feel we're elected to make decisions on what the majority of residents are looking for," LeClere said.
The resolution passed by trustees, which will head to the Planning and Zoning Commission, likely will not be what is actually adopted by the village board later this year.
The suggested zoning code amendment being shipped to the commission is highly restrictive and, as written, would relegate the location of cannabis-related businesses to a tiny section of 47th Street on the village's southern border.
That part of the proposed code amendment reflects an existing overlay district created when medical cannabis was introduced in the state. Illinois law for medical cannabis dispensaries included 1,000-foot buffer zones between dispensaries and schools, daycare centers and group homes.
The state law allowing recreational cannabis sales includes no such buffer zone requirements, and it is likely the village would seek to ease those restrictions to allow a dispensary to open in more locations in Brookfield.
"I would not recommend [the highly restrictive language in the resolution]," said Village Manager Timothy Wiberg, following the Sept. 23 meeting. "It defeats the entire purpose of this. If you're going to allow it, you want to regulate it. This [resolution language] is basically telling the world you don't want it."
In addition to cannabis dispensaries, the Planning and Zoning Commission as well as village trustees will have to determine what kind of cannabis-related businesses to allow in Brookfield. Dispensaries are the most well-known of the businesses, but they also include cannabis cultivation operations, craft growers, product infusers and transportation.
The model ordinance allows one of each type of business. That likely will also change under further examination. Members of the public will have at least three more opportunities to provide for-the-record input on the regulations — at the Planning and Zoning Commission hearing, at the village board Committee of the Whole meeting where the recommended zoning changes first are discussed, and prior to the village board's vote on the recommendations.