DuPage County Board revisiting ban on recreational pot sales in unincorporated areas

  • DuPage County Board members are considering whether to lift a ban on recreational marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas.

      DuPage County Board members are considering whether to lift a ban on recreational marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, January 2020

Updated 12/10/2021 4:27 AM

As marijuana businesses find growing acceptance in the suburbs, DuPage County Board members are considering whether to lift a ban on retail pot stores in unincorporated areas.

County board member Liz Chaplin said more and more towns that had previously rejected recreational sales have since voted to allow shops within their borders. She's called on the county board to revisit the issue.


In response, board members have agreed to look at the possibility of repealing the county's ban on adult-use cannabis businesses. The topic came up as recently as a development committee meeting Tuesday.

"We saw that a lot of our municipalities that had originally opted out are opting in now," said Chaplin, a Downers Grove Democrat who serves as chair of the board's finance committee.

Illinois legalized recreational marijuana in 2020, but towns and counties were able to opt out of sales. DuPage County Board members voted 10-8 in October 2019 to prohibit cultivation centers, craft growers and other adult-use cannabis businesses from setting up shop in unincorporated areas.

At the same time, the board imposed a 3% tax on all retail sales of recreational cannabis in municipalities. If DuPage allows cannabis to be sold in unincorporated areas, the county can place a tax of up to 3.75% on the sales.

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"The question becomes whether or not that would be additional revenue or whether we would simply be taking the current appetite for marijuana use and merely spreading it out among new locations, taking some of it away from the existing facilities in the incorporated areas," said board member Sam Tornatore, a Roselle Republican who serves as chair of the development committee.

A sampling of DuPage towns shows 17 have adopted bans, while 16 have said "yes" to sales, said Paul Hoss, the county's planning and zoning administration coordinator.

Most of the state-licensed dispensaries that are currently operating in the county are concentrated on the southwest side of DuPage, in Naperville; the center of the county, in Villa Park, Oakbrook Terrace and Lombard; and in Addison.

That distribution leaves a "bit of a desert sort of in the northwest portion of the county," Hoss told board members.

"It is also a convenience issue for those that are looking to use marijuana recreationally or for medical purposes, whatever their issue may be," Chaplin said.


Hoss' department was tasked with identifying possible locations for dispensaries based on state requirements, county code and initial board feedback restricting shops to major roadways such as routes 53 and 83.

"Those might be better locations for some of these dispensaries than what might be offered in the municipalities," Chaplin said.

Using those general criteria, Hoss said there are conceivably 141 sites that "in theory" could be available for dispensaries. That's a raw number, Hoss said, and doesn't take into account any additional county zoning restrictions that could be placed on a facility.

County officials, however, anticipate only a handful of dispensary owners could be granted state licenses to do business in unincorporated areas.

"Given what we know and how the licenses are being doled out, we'd probably generate two to three more dispensaries in unincorporated DuPage if we decided to go with it," Tornatore said.

Chaplin said she expects the finance committee to take another look at the issue in January or February.

"I'm not going to thumb my nose at any source of revenue that we could possibly get for the county," she said.

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