A vote late Tuesday by the Naperville City Council to prohibit sales of recreational marijuana brings to the fore a budding conflict between Gov. J.B. Pritzker and other backers of legal weed in Illinois and the corporate interests that make up the industry.
While the Naperville City Council voted 6-3 to ban recreational pot businesses from operating in the western suburb, members also signaled support for a future ballot initiative allowing voters to revisit the issue.
The decision comes less than a week after the state issued its first licenses to sell recreational marijuana to five medical dispensaries, including Naperville’s 3C Compassionate Care Center. But, in the wake of the vote and a new regulatory directive, that license may now be up in smoke — potentially costing the company thousands of dollars.
Last month, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation made it clear that existing pot shops won’t be able to sell both medical and recreational marijuana if they relocate to a new location. That means the dispensary in Naperville will only be able to serve medical marijuana users, even if the shop moves to an area that allows recreational sales.
GTI, based in River North, has an ownership stake in each of the five shops awarded licenses to sell pot to anyone over the age of 21. Spokeswoman Linda Mariscano argued that allowing recreational sales in Naperville would “benefit the community in terms of tax revenue, job creation and community oversight.”
“GTI has had a great relationship with the city of Naperville since 2015, and we’ve been honored to provide relief via medical cannabis to many of its residents who are patients at 3C Naperville. We will continue to talk and work with the city on this important issue,” Mariscano said.
In a letter to the governor last month, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy and state Sen. Heather Steans, both Chicago Democrats, claimed the IDFPR’s new directive came after officials initially said an existing medical clinic could move to an area that allows recreational sales and still obtain a dual-use license. Last week, Pritzker responded to the lawmakers in his own letter but didn’t offer any clear solutions to the catch-22.
On Wednesday, Pritzker spokeswoman Emily Bittner noted that GTI would still be able to open a standalone recreational dispensary, something the pot law allows for each of the state’s 55 medical dispensaries. However, Bittner said the governor wouldn’t direct the IDFPR to allow GTI to relocate and operate as a dual-use dispensary — a move that was recommended by Pamela Althoff, a former Republican state senator who now heads the Cannabis Business Association of Illinois.
Now, lawmakers likely will have to address the issue in a “trailer bill” during the upcoming veto session, proponents say.
Contributing: Daily Herald