DeKALB – Mayor Jerry Smith said DeKalb is in “unknown territory” as the DeKalb City Council continues grappling with parameters for who will be allowed to sell recreational marijuana within city limits and where it will be allowed to be sold.
Smith’s comments came during Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, and he called for more direct discussion with Northern Illinois University representatives to see how the institution’s staff feel about retail shops, and how close they want them to be to campus.
“What we need to do is reach out to Northern and get some kind of stance on whether or not they, like this council, agree with what we’ve talked about tonight,” Smith said. “They’re a key player in all of this.”
Specifics to discuss include whether to define NIU as a school like local schools. Merchants would be required to set up shop at least 250 feet away from schools, licensed day cares and residential properties.
Even if DeKalb approves the shops, however, Illinois only will be issuing 75 licenses, and there is no guarantee a shop would open in the city. City Manager Bill Nicklas has said the city already is being eyed by marijuana merchants.
Nicklas said recreational marijuana sold in shops would have to come from a licensed grower elsewhere and be delivered in special areas similar to a sally port in a police station, where the door closes behind a delivery person and then the product is unloaded.
“What I’m proposing is that this is something that will come in small boxes,” Nicklas said. “We have drugs, cancer drugs and other things that go to drugstores every day that are more toxic than what is being delivered.”
While the city council has largely been in support of allowing recreational cannabis permits in DeKalb and taxing the full 3% on sales as a revenue generator, some aldermen expressed concern.
Seventh Ward Alderman Tony Faivre said that while he’s not personally convinced of the need for recreational shops, he realizes the world is changing.
“I’m not 100% in favor of marijuana dispensaries,” Faivre said. “However, I think it’s a grand experiment that I don’t think we can stop.”
Sixth Ward Alderman Mike Verbic said constituents have approached him concerned about possible smells from the shops.
“How do we outline a practice of making sure that the smell is contained on a particular site?” Verbic said.
Sixth Ward Alderman Carolyn Morris said she didn’t think smell would be an issue.
“I’ve been to dispensaries in other states, and there’s no scent,” Morris said. “Maybe associated with smoking it there may be a scent, but [the proposal] outlines they’re not smoking on site.”