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Lee County bans marijuana sales in close vote

DIXON – The Lee County Board decided to ban marijuana sales in unincorporated areas Tuesday, in a close vote and with a quarter of its members absent.

Marijuana businesses 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,” according to the ordinance, which the board approved a 10-8, with six members absent.

Prior to the vote, board member David Bally said they shouldn’t push away marijuana opportunities in the county because of its medicinal benefits and the potential for job creation and tax revenue.

Many board members are approaching the topic as a moral issue, and they need to think about the good of the county, board member Katie White said.

“We’re elected to do what’s fiscally responsible for the county, and we need to be mindful of that,” she said.

Resident Karin Helt spoke during the public comment period, asking that they hold off on the vote to gather more information and see the potential benefits to the county.

The board also approved a 3 percent county tax on recreational marijuana in cities that allow sales. Board members previously rejected implementing a tax in September but reintroduced the ordinance considering they could collect taxes from municipalities where marijuana businesses develop. Board member Dave Bowers was the only dissenting vote.

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.

Next meeting

The Lee County Board next meets at 9 a.m. March 19 in the third-floor board room of the Old Lee County Courthouse, 112 E. Second St.

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

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