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DeKalb residents ask city to embrace myriad pot businesses

Some say city should allow more than just sellers

DeKALB – Don Hawkins is a DeKalb businessman who could soon share retail space with the city’s first medical marijuana seller, and said he thinks the city is being too restrictive on its proposed marijuana regulations.

Hawkins owns Competitive Edge,
700 N. Peace Road Suite A, and Chicago-based retailer BQ Enterprises is eyeing an adjacent 3,600-square-foot space in that same building to set up a medical marijuana shop, which could also turn into recreational retail space. BQ Enterprises’ petition for a medical marijuana license and zoning will come before the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission on Oct. 23.

“I understand [the city’s] concern with regards to ‘learn by others’ mistakes,’ ” Hawkins said Wednesday during a Planning & Zoning Commission public hearing for regulating the sale of the drug. “But I feel that there’s a time essence here for the opportunity for people to get into this business to be able to be successful.”

Dan Olson, principal planner for the city, said DeKalb County is one of a group of 10 counties which will be allowed three recreational licenses as part of Phase 1 of the new law. He said the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulations will begin taking applications for dispensaries Dec. 10 through January 1, with licenses issued by May 1.

The city does not yet have a guarantee that, even if it approves a dispensary in town, one will come to the area. Of the 75 permits that will be available Jan. 1, 47 will be in the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin region, of which DeKalb County is a part.

Hawkins was among three other residents who spoke during the hearing Wednesday in favor of the city allowing recreational marijuana sales. Proposed regulations would rule out allowing craft growers, distributors, manufacturers and other types of ventures in the industry. Some residents said they think prohibiting all marijuana businesses except sellers cripples industry potential.

“DeKalb County is an agricultural county,” Hawkins said. “To omit a craft grower I think would be very bad for the community. I would be interested in being a craft grower at the location I’m at.”

Mark Robinson, of DeKalb, said he wants to see the industry embraced by the downtown area, too.

“It’s bringing people that would not necessarily be coming to downtown if they’re trying to create that culture,” Robinson said. “You don’t want to put it on the outskirts or treat it like it’s something that we don’t want. If I want to go pick up a bag downtown, while I’m there I might visit Poppy Seed Primitives or the Lincoln Inn.”

The regulations were approved by the commission, 4-1, with Commissioner Ron Klein the only ‘no’ vote, and will next go before the City Council to be voted on.

Merchants would be required to set up shop at least 250 feet away from schools, licensed day cares and residential properties. The City Council has already expressed strong support for recreational marijuana dispensaries in DeKalb, with a desire to impose a full 3% tax on sales.

Throughout the meeting, Klein said he was doubtful marijuana was beneficial to any individual.

“Other than sales tax, is there any other benefit of recreational marijuana?” Klein said. “I’m not in favor of recreational marijuana, period.”

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