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County Board addresses marijuana ordinances

Vote to tax, prohibit businesses up for a vote next month

DIXON – The Lee County Board continues to talk about taxing recreational marijuana and banning sales in unincorporated areas, with a vote likely next month.

In September, the board voted down an ordinance placing a county sales tax on recreational marijuana, then decided to give it another go, considering they could collect taxes from municipalities where marijuana businesses develop.

The ordinance introduced to the board Tuesday would set a 3 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana that it could collect in cities and a 3.75 percent tax in unincorporated areas.

Members also are considering banning marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas. That would be done with an opt-out ordinance prohibiting marijuana growers or sellers, which also was presented to the board Tuesday and will be up for a vote next week.

Board member David Bally said he's against banning marijuana businesses because of the medical benefits for people who need it.

"It's coming, and we need to prepare for it. Rather than ban it at this time, I'd like to see more discussion on it," Bally said.

Recreational marijuana use became legal for those 21 and older on Jan. 1, and medical marijuana dispensaries and growers have the first opportunity to expand into recreational sales. New recreational dispensary licenses will be awarded in May, with three earmarked for the nine-county area that includes the Sauk Valley.

The county should tax it and set up zoning rules for marijuana businesses, Bally said.

"Rather than cover our eyes and our heads, we need to do this tax."

Board member Dave Bowers said he understands the medical uses of marijuana and knows the county is tight on revenue, but it's not a taxing avenue they should pursue.

"Taxing cannabis is not the way to go," Bowers said.

According to the ordinance banning marijuana businesses, they would "present adverse impacts upon the health, safety, and welfare of the residents, and additional costs, burdens and impacts upon law enforcement and regulatory operations of the county."

Next meeting

The Lee County Board next meets at 9 a.m. Feb. 18 in the third-floor board room of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.

The agenda will be posted at 2 days before the meeting.

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