Council Tags March Primary for Adult Use Cannabis Referendum

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Naperville voters will weigh in on whether recreational adult-use cannabis should be sold in Naperville in the March 17, 2020 general primary election.

Naperville City Council and several members of the public discussed the referendum at the most recent meeting.

Discussion on Timing

The majority of public speakers who said they will vote to opt out favored the November 3, 2020 election and those opting in preferred the March date.

“Those votes will be disproportionately bent toward one voting party, the one party that has a president on that ballot,” said Councilman Kevin Coyne. “And I agree, it is not an entirely partisan issue – there clearly are Republicans and Democrats that feel differently on this issue. There is a partisan flavor to this and to deny that would be disingenuous.”

Others on the dais said nothing is stopping Republicans from going to the polls in March and this referendum could actually serve as a reason for them to show up.

“No one’s pinning you down and telling you you can’t vote. It’s a choice,” said Councilman Benny White. “If you don’t want to go to the polls, that’s a choice you get to make. So if you are energized by a particular position, by a particular candidate, you’ll get out and you’ll vote.”

Referendum Wording

Council voted 5-4 to hold the referendum in March before discussing the specific wording of the question. City staff’s proposal read, “Shall the City of Naperville, in light of state legislation legalizing the possession, consumption, and sale of recreational adult use cannabis, allow the sale of recreational adult use cannabis within its jurisdiction?”

While some felt this was unnecessarily wordy, others felt the context of the state’s legalization was important information.

“I tend to agree that the language should be shorter, a little bit cleaner if we can, but I totally think that Councilman White is spot on when he says that you have to have context. All referendum questions start with the context, otherwise it’s very confusing,” said Mayor Steve Chirico.

Original Proposal Accepted

Though alternative wordings of the question were proposed, the dais decided to trust the city’s legal team’s version by a vote of 7-2.

The referendum will be non-binding, though multiple members of council have previously stated they will support the will of the majority.

Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.