Citing decreased voter participation in a non-binding referendum that supported recreational cannabis in Naperville, Jennifer Taylor of Opt Out Naperville is calling for a do-over referendum in November. 

“It was a close vote and we were outspent 20 to 1,” said Taylor, a former state’s attorney who grew up in Naperville. She unequivocally supports the medical use of cannabis but believes legal pot shops for everyone goes against Naperville’s “family-friendly brand.” 

While Taylor declares she raised approximately $4,000 for Opt Out Naperville, campaign spending by various industry and individual interests in support for the referendum was many multiples higher, Taylor conjects. Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries has state approval to open a Rise recreational dispensary, but was blocked by the community last year. 

Although more than 53 percent of Naperville voters expressed their support for recreational cannabis sales, Taylor claims the results were skewed. She believes many older voters that would have voted against recreational sales did not make it to the ballot box due to CoronaVirus-related concerns. She also claims a November general election, with a full complement of both Democratic and Republican voters, would favor her side of the debate.

As it stands, Naperville Mayor Steve Cherico is moving ahead with plans to approve recreational sales in the municipality.  

‘The next step,” he wrote in an email to Grown In, “is to direct staff to notify the Illinois Department of Revenue that we wish to preserve a tax rate of 3% on adult use cannabis and to ask staff to bring back recommendations for ordinance changes, zoning recommendations and rules associated with the cannabis industry to processed through the planning and zoning board and voted on by the city council. The majority of the city council committed to honor the results of the referendum and I believe they will fulfill that pledge.”

Taylor said if Cherico and the city council proceed without another referendum, the voters will ultimately pass judgement if and when they seek reelection. 

For the time being, the closest recreational dispensary for Naperville residents is Verilife in North Aurora. 

“Aurora has always had a reputation for casinos, gambling and being a go-to area for this kind of thing,” said Taylor. “Let Aurora keep this reputation and we keep ours.” 

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.