The Lake County Board is expected to take preemptive action Tuesday on the pending legalization of recreational marijuana by allowing for the collection of sales taxes on dispensaries that are allowed to operate in unincorporated and incorporated areas.
Under the ordinance being recommended for approval, marijuana retailers in unincorporated areas would be charged an additional sales tax of 3.75% of gross receipts. The voluminous state law authorizing the production, sale and use of recreational marijuana beginning Jan. 1 also gives counties the authority to impose a 3% sales tax in incorporated areas that allow retail sales.
The sales tax officially is known as the Cannabis Retailers' Occupation Tax. Both levels being considered in Lake County are the maximum allowed under the new law.
However, authorization simply establishes the mechanism, and approving the tax would not bind the county board to allowing sales.
"They're creating the opportunity to tax if they choose to allow recreational (marijuana) use in the unincorporated area," said Eric Waggoner, the county's director of planning, building and development.
Municipalities are allowed to charge an additional 3% sales tax on marijuana sales and the county tax would be an extra layer. Lake County would be among the first to go that route.
"We expect that a number of metro counties will be formally considering the issue of the cannabis retailers occupational tax this month and next, but it's our understanding that none so far have taken final action yet," Waggoner said.
The board meeting begins at 9 a.m. on the 10th floor of the county building, 18 N. County St., Waukegan.
How much sales tax revenue the county could gain is not known but whatever it is wouldn't be available until Sept. 1, 2020 at the earliest, according to Waggoner. There is lobbying on the state level to modify that provision, he added.
"Certainly, we'd like to see the money collected sooner rather than later," he told the county board's public works, transportation and planning committee last week. "There's a concern September is too long a wait."
In any case, the county board won't decide whether to allow marijuana sales in the unincorporated areas until after a recreational cannabis task force concludes its work in late October. The findings will be presented and direction sought in November, with board action expected in December, Waggoner said.
Communities are proceeding at different paces and with different stances. Three weeks ago, for example, Round Lake Park authorized the added 3% sales tax but has yet to decide whether to allow marijuana to be sold in town.
"We just want to do as much homework as possible," Mayor Linda Lucassen said. That will involve soliciting and reviewing resident opinion, she added.
Across the region, Elburn has voted to allow marijuana sales, while Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Island Lake and Wauconda have leaned toward "yes" to sales in discussions so far. Naperville, Grayslake, Lake Zurich and Long Grove have voted to ban sales, while Park Ridge, Libertyville, Barrington and others have leaned toward bans in preliminary discussions.