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Berwyn city council approves recreational marijuana businesses

BERWYN – In 2020, residents of Berwyn may see recreational marijuana dispensaries pop up along Harlem Avenue and other parts of the city’s business district.

By a 6-2 vote, Berwyn aldermen decided Nov. 26 to allow cannabis dispensaries into their community under certain guidelines and restrictions. Fourth Ward Alderman Robert Fejt and Seventh Ward Alderman Rafael Avila cast dissenting votes.

According to the newly formed ordinance, Berwyn will welcome dispensaries in the C-4 District, which is primarily known as the commercial corridor and includes Harlem and Ogden avenues, and the C-2 District, which includes another stretch of Harlem, as well as Roosevelt Road.

Dispensaries must be located 250 feet away from places of worship, all schools, day care centers, day care homes and residential care homes, according to the ordinance. It also calls for dispensaries to have security and specific hours of operation, and customers are prohibited from consuming marijuana at these locations.

“It’s going to be legal Jan. 1 in the state,” First Ward Alderman Scott Lennon said of recreational marijuana and his vote in favor of adult-use cannabis dispensaries in Berwyn. “It’s here, and our police and city is going to have to deal with it no matter if we have a dispensary or not.”

Sixth Ward Alderwoman Alicia Ruiz, who also voted in favor of the dispensaries, echoed Lennon.

“As we make these decisions in regard to the sale of marijuana and changing our ordinances and zoning, we were very careful to ensure that even though we know that that’s not a 100% sold idea to the entire community, we were very conscientious of the why, the where and the what when making those decisions,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz added that she and her colleagues have to think ahead and be prepared for how the legalization of recreational marijuana and inclusion of dispensaries could affect their neighborhood.

That’s where the 3% cannabis tax comes in. At the Nov. 26 meeting, five out of the eight aldermen voted for a 3% tax on recreational marijuana sales, which will take effect Jan. 1. Lennon motioned to approve the maximum 3% tax and suggested that revenue generated should be used to fund public safety agencies.

Ruiz, Second Ward Alderman Jose Ramirez and Third Ward Alderwoman Jeanine Reardon decided to vote against the tax because they have not yet discussed how much revenue would be allocated to what departments or even define the parameters of public safety.

Lennon predicted that Berwyn police officers could experience perhaps the most change within their department and would need the appropriate resources to accommodate them.

“If we get to the point of having testing, if they get pulled over and stuff like that,” the police officers would need to have the right equipment, Lennon said.

Looking ahead, Ruiz remains content with the council’s decision.

“I’m happy to see that collectively as a council that we’re diversified and open-minded enough that we know when change needs to be made,” she said. “And we basically take that bull by the horn and figure out what are the best options for our city collectively.”

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