Spot Check: Weed Wacked in Winnetka

On Tuesday, October 1st, as message boards, chat rooms, and Facebook pages lit up all over the North Shore, the Winnetka Village Council introduced for adoption the Village's Ordinance prohibiting any and all types of recreational cannabis businesses in Winnetka.

No weed no way. Not now, maybe not ever.

How’d We Get Here?

On Tuesday, June 25th, Illinois got legal weed, and the distinction – some say, dubious – of being the first state in the nation to legalize pot via the legislative process rather than a ballot initiative. Springfield wanted it, reaaally wanted it.

Winnetka, not so much.

The state law was passed ostensibly to decriminalize pot distribution and ownership, expunge the records of some 800,000 people, and be a boon to cash-strapped minority communities. But Winnetka has neither a plethora of incarcerated dealers nor is it particularly cash strapped. So, the Village Council had some thinking to do.

It’s Just Not Us

One Red Flag Resolution, two public hearings, dozens of emails, phone calls, and Peets/Starbucks/Farmers Market intercepts later – the majority against any kind of weed business in Winnetka – the Village Council decided pot was not Winnetka and directed the Village Attorney to draw up an ordinance to make sure it would stay so.

The Case Against Cannabis

  • Feds don’t like it. For now, looking the other way, but it’s still on their books as a Schedule 1 substance – “illegal, prone to abuse, and with no recognized medical benefits.” So local licenses could be on a short leash, and companies with weed-friendly policies and federal contracts may have to choose one or the other.

  • Banks can't like it. The Federal Reserve is not a fan of insuring illegally-gotten gains. That could change, but for now pot sales are pretty much a cash business. A boatload of cash at closing time and three train stations. Snatch. Grab. Getaway. Some Trustees think Winnetka just doesn't have the bandwidth for stuff like this.

  • Tax benefits are there, but maybe not there enough. And a recently-found glitch in the law says no revenue until September 2020. Plus if you tax to the max, your competition could come from some dark places.

  • Speaking of which, $1,000,000 in sales nets Winnetka $30,000 in revenue max. At least one Trustee wonders if the cost of enforcement could make this a less-than-profitable deal.

  • No roadside test yet. Back to that cost of enforcement thing.

  • But most of all for the Trustees and the Prez, it’s bad for our kids. Full stop.

The Grass May be Greener...

Oh, Glencoe.

In what was seen as the mother of all NIMBYs, Glencoe celebrated Good Neighbor Day with a letter to Winnetka: 'We're thinking of making that retail strip on Green Bay Road a Weed Welcome Here Zone. Thought we'd give you a head's up.'

The retail strip that's just steps from one of Winnetka’s most popular playgrounds?

Color President Rintz miffed to the max. Should make for some awkward moments at the next Regional Municipal Conference get-together.

The State of Stash to Date

Communities already licensed to dispense medical marijuana get first dibs on the 75 – and eventually 110 – rec-can licenses the State is ready to issue.

Some like Evanston want it, some like Lake Forest don’t. And then there's...

  • Lake Bluff – Village Staff recommended total ban. Plan Commission/Zoning Board felt that projected $95K in taxes was too juicy to pass up and voted 5-1 to recommend rec-can. Back to Village Council for some very interesting discussions.

  • Highland Park – Has a medical marijuana dispensary. Watchful waiting. For now, no. All eyes on Deerfield and Northbrook.

  • Wilmette – More watchful waiting. Referendum being teed up for November 3, 2020.

  • Glenview – Still more watchful waiting. Still, just in case, Plan Commission holding public hearings even as we speak.

  • Deerfield – Has medical marijuana dispensaries. Multiple. Plan Commission all in on rec-can. Committee of the Whole to consider it. Leaning towards yes. And should residents harbor visions of Amsterdam, only one dispensary can be awarded at a time.

  • Northbrook – Has an actual request for a permit for a recreational cannabis business – 755 Skokie Blvd. Looking to OK dispensaries and – yes – craft growers. Plan Commission all in. Village Council to weigh in October 15th.

  • Skokie – All in. They've got a Cannabis Commissioner and everything. But licenses for one year a a time – in case they change their minds. Oh, and no on-site toking. 3% sales tax, giddyup.

  • Naperville – The ultimate Weed Waffler. Home to a medical marijuana dispensary, they were a definite it's-not-who-we-are no. Then, weeell... and finally, no, really, no.

Back to Our Neighbor-to-the-North

Glencoe's party line is something about not enough loading dock space in Glencoe's downtown. Their Zoning Board's launching the first of what should be several public hearings. So whether you think Glencoe is Public Enemy #1 or your New Best Friend, let ‘em know how you feel.

Call – 847-461-1104. Operators are standing by.

Write – Contact the Glencoe Village Manager's Office.

Drop byZoning Board Meeting, 7:30 p.m., Monday, (that’s tonight) Oct. 7th, at Glencoe Village Hall, 675 Village Court.

Check in – Updates on pending changes to Glencoe's Zoning Code or their Code of Ordinances, will be posted here.

In the Meantime, Here's your Cannabis Syllabus

You're welcome.