Brookfield wants input on legal pot

Trustees non-committal in first discussion of allowing local sales

August 27th, 2019 12:42 PM

By Bob Uphues


The village of Brookfield looks like it will take a deliberate approach to the subject of either prohibiting the sale of recreational cannabis or regulating it. During the village board's first crack at tackling the subject at its Aug. 26 meeting, no trustees ventured an opinion on the subject, except to say they needed more input from residents and more time to study it.

The village board likely will take up the subject of recreational cannabis at its next meeting on Sept. 9. However, if trustees decide they want to allow a cannabis dispensary to open in the village, it could still be at least a couple of months before local laws regulating such businesses are nailed down.

Trustees would first have the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission consider amending the zoning code, and then it would go back to the village board for final approval. Assuming that the Planning and Zoning Commission takes up the subject at its meeting in late October, it could be the end of November before the village's regulations are in place, at the earliest.

Trustees directed Village Manager Timothy Wiberg to conduct an online survey of residents prior to the board's next meeting in September to begin gathering input. Trustees also want input from local police, while Village President Kit Ketchmark suggested getting input from the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce, likening the subject to prior discussions about allowing video gambling, smoking in bars and restaurants and 4 a.m. liquor licenses.

Brookfield resident Michelle Svendsen, a former library trustee who works part-time as an independent consultant, said that if Brookfield is serious about allowing dispensaries, they need quicker action.

Svendsen said she has cannabis industry clients who have expressed interest in Brookfield as a location for a dispensary, but they're likely to move on if the village can't decide before Oct. 1, which is the date the state will begin accepting applications for 75 new dispensaries that can open when the sale of recreational cannabis becomes legal on Jan. 1, 2020.

"This law that has gone into effect, whether you like it or not, it's here," Svendsen said. "Most people know, when they put an application in, where they want to do it. … Hearing that it's going to be pushed back, it does kind of dampen the enthusiasm for someone that's going to put in an application in October."

The village board could alternately decide to ban the sale of recreational cannabis in Brookfield, which would settle the matter quickly, although the village would still need to amend its code to come into compliance with state law regarding cannabis possession and use.

"Whether we opt out or in is a very important decision," said Trustee Michael Garvey. "I think we're going to need a little bit more time."

Meanwhile, Trustee Edward Cote said that while his mind remained open to allowing a cannabis dispensary to open in the village, his main concern was public safety. Because state laws conflict with federal law on the subject of cannabis, dispensaries tend to make transactions in cash, making them robbery and burglary targets.

"Safety is one of the biggest problems I have," Cote said.

Two members of the public, Cynthia Freymark, president of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Lyons Township, and Ron Melka, executive director of the Lyons Township Mental Health Commission, urged the village board to prohibit the sale of recreational cannabis in Brookfield.

"You're bringing in a poison that is not going to create a healthy community here," said Freymark, who offered to give a formal presentation to the board about the dangers of cannabis in the future.

Three other residents, Mitzi Norton, Meaghan McAteer and Chris Meyer, stated their support for allowing a dispensary, adding that the tax revenue from the sale of cannabis would also benefit the village.

Garvey, however, downplayed the revenue potential of taxing recreational cannabis, saying the state's projections amounted to "teasing" municipalities.

"I don't think this should be painted as a financial gain for the village, because I believe there will be some increased costs if it is allowed," Garvey said, referring to additional costs for law enforcement. "It could be a wash or actually hurt us economically in some ways. … I'm not looking at it as a revenue source."

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