NORMAL — Normal City Council wants to hear from more corners of the community before deciding whether to ban, regulate or broadly approve local cannabis businesses once recreational cannabis becomes legal Jan. 1.
The council hopes to get feedback from local law enforcement and businesses, possibly funneled through the McLean County Chamber of Commerce, at its Oct. 21 meeting, and could start moving toward a regulated process for new cannabis businesses in Normal the same night.
"We do not have any authority to limit or prohibit anyone from using cannabis," said Brian Day, the town's lead attorney, during a presentation Monday night. "We're only talking about whether cannabis businesses can come in and operate."
Council members didn't say whether they favor one of three options Day laid out: disallowing any cannabis business locally, allowing some such businesses with a special-use permit required for each or allowing such businesses to set up in Normal with no specific approval from the town.
Council members received a draft ordinance falling into the second category that City Manager Pam Reece said should be a starting point for discussions.
"This is not necessarily a recommendation. It's what an ordinance could look like," she said.
Under that ordinance, each cannabis business would need to file an application addressing impact to surrounding areas, proposed structure, hours of operation, parking demand, traffic generation and a sign plan.
The ordinance would also require more security, lighting and other improvements to such businesses; prohibit on-premises consumption, eliminating the possibility of a "cannabis cafe"; and prevent them from locating in specific areas.
Those areas are within 100 feet of a church or school, the town's current restriction for liquor-related businesses, and within 200 feet of residential areas, its restriction for video gaming businesses.
"We can use land-use regulations, and (the state law) says we can do, 'Time, place, manner and number,'" said Day of how the town can regulate cannabis businesses. "We are limited to pretty much zoning (guidelines)."
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If the council chooses to proceed, that ordinance would go to Normal Planning Commission as soon as Nov. 7 for approval as part of the town's zoning code, with a public hearing during that meeting. The council would then consider the commission's recommendation, possibly in December.
A second draft ordinance suggests a 3 percent sales tax on cannabis purchases, on top of the town's existing 8.75 percent sales tax, and it would prohibit economic incentives from sales tax for cannabis businesses.
"That kind of defeats the purpose of having these, giving the tax money away," said Day of incentives for cannabis businesses.
Tax revenue wouldn't go to the town until September, but the state could bump up that date, said Day. He noted the town's course could change if the state legislature passes a bill clarifying the new law in October or November.
The sales tax could be approved by the council alone, said Day. The council will also need to change the town's provisions for punishing cannabis use by adults that are moot under the new law, which could happen in December.
If the town allows cannabis businesses, its current medical marijuana dispensary could choose to become a recreational dispensary, and owner The Green Solution could open another nearby, said Day. Three recreational dispensaries could open across McLean and DeWitt counties under state law.
"One of the issues I'd like more information on, probably from police, is ... the actual increased sales of illegal marijuana, and what (other) states might be doing to curtail that in terms of higher fines or things like that," said Mayor Chris Koos. "The people that are selling it illegally are going to continue to do so and undercut pricing."
Council member Stan Nord said he wants to consider further limiting locations for cannabis-related businesses in response to complaints from local businesses. He suggested they pass on concerns through the Chamber so they won't need to come forward publicly.