ST. CHARLES – St. Charles has joined other communities like Elburn and Lombard in allowing the retail sale of recreational marijuana.
During the Oct. 21 St. Charles City Council meeting, aldermen voted 6-3 to allow recreational dispensaries as a special use. Voting "no" were 1st Ward Alderman Ronald Silkaitis, 2nd Ward Alderman Rita Anne Payleitner and 5th Ward Alderman Maureen Lewis.
Second Ward Alderman Arthur Lemke was absent from the meeting. But he has previously voted against allowing the sale of recreational marijuana.
"I want to make it very clear that my no vote is not banning anything," Lewis said, prior to her vote. "It's not banning people who smoke marijuana. I don't have that power. The state has already given that out. I'm simply saying no in St. Charles. It's not prohibition. It's not banning. I want to make it clear that I'm not judging those who are using pot. I just believe that it doesn't need to be sold in St. Charles like some other things that are legal. Adult book stores are legal in the state of Illinois, but we don't have them here. Our ordinances don't allow that. I just don't believe it's right for St. Charles."
In response to criticism that the city will have to spend more of its resources making sure motorists aren't driving impaired, St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina said the city would have to do that "regardless of whether we have a dispensary or we do not have a dispensary."
"I do take some umbrage also with comments in general that St. Charles is turning the wolves loose, so to speak," he said. "That's not true at all. This body of 10 up here plus the mayor have great respect for this city and treat it like they would treat their child, with great respect."
Rogina also said city leaders have been as transparent as possible.
"I believe in the democratic process," he said. "If we had to go to the people with every issue, your ballots would be full in April, November and points in between. You elect us to do the work of this community. And we'll do our best to do it, until such time you either replace us or we step down."
Beginning Jan. 1, the law will allow Illinois residents 21 and older to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana per Illinois resident. Residents also will be able to possess 5 grams of cannabis concentrate and up to 500 milligrams of THC – the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the high sensation – contained in a cannabis-infused product. Nonresidents can possess half those amounts.
Registered medical marijuana patients will be allowed to grow up to five cannabis plants in their home and possess more than 30 grams of cannabis if it is grown and secured in their residence under certain conditions.
The majority of aldermen approved rules allowing recreational dispensaries in the community business and regional business zoning districts, meaning they would be located away from the city's downtown. In addition, they would have to be located at least 250 feet away from a school, day care facility, church or residential uses.
Two dispensaries could be located in the city – one on the east side and one on the west side of the Fox River. In addition, one of the dispensaries must have a minimum of one year's experience operating a medical marijuana dispensary in St. Charles. The second dispensary must have a minimum of one year's experience operating a medical marijuana dispensary within the state of Illinois, but not necessarily in St. Charles.
Zen Leaf, a medical marijuana dispensary, currently operates at 3714 Illinois Ave. in St. Charles.
On-premise consumption lounges and all other types of recreational marijuana uses would not be permitted.