As the Sept. 30 deadline approaches for municipalities in Illinois to decide on whether to allow and tax the sale of recreational cannabis, locally elected officials are under the microscope.
The state lawmakers responsible for getting the legislation that legalized recreational cannabis to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk warned last month that municipalities shouldn’t tax sales of cannabis products at the maximum three percent. They said the high taxes would keep people from getting high using legal supply, opting to continue buying cannabis on the black market.
In spite of the warning, many of the state’s cities are opting to tax sales at the highest rate. On top of state taxes that can be as high as 40 percent, local city and county sales taxes, the three percent tax can put the total tax on recreational cannabis at more than 50 percent.
Urbana approved the sale and opted for the maximum three percent tax, as did Rolling Meadows, and the city of Chicago appears to be poised to do the same, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. Carbondale, another college town, is expected to decide on Sept. 24.
A number of cities, including Naperville, Morton and Murphysboro voted to ban the sale in their city limits.
Peoria is expected to decide on allowing recreational sales in the municipality on Sept. 24 after a hearing Tuesday that included debate not only on whether to allow it, but whether to go against the warning that taxing it at the maximum three percent could dissuade marijuana users from buying at legal dispensaries.
“If we say we’re not selling it, they’re going to go to East Peoria, Bartonville, West Peoria, Dunlap, everybody that surrounds us and buy it there and then bring it back to Peoria so it’s the perfect ‘cut off your nose to spite your face’ scenario,” Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said. “We are all cash-starved.”
Ardis said the state already decided the city can't ban the use of cannabis products after Jan. 1. Now, elected city officials are trying to figure out whether the cash-strapped city should allow the sale and collect tax revenue on it.
“They took the ball out of our hands,” he said.
People spoke out against Springfield allowing recreational cannabis sales at the city council meeting Tuesday night, but the council didn't make a final decision.
“Let’s not dishonor our 16th president by making Springfield the pot capital of the state,” Springfield resident Beth Rodgers said.
There seemed to be some confusion about what the city could regulate. Illinois only allows municipalities to ban or approve and tax the sale of recreational cannabis, not the possession and consumption of the drug, which will be legal across Illinois in January.
“Even if we don’t allow for the sale, people can still do so within our city limits,” Springfield 9th Ward Ald. Jim Donelan said.
Third Ward Ald. Doris Turner said the city should tax the sales of the drug to pay for their pensions.
“This is a perfect opportunity for us to provide funding, not only for our police and fire pension systems but also for those other things that our community needs,” she said.