Bloomington Council's Emig Talks Cannabis Cafes, Tax Rate | WGLT

Bloomington Council's Emig Talks Cannabis Cafes, Tax Rate

Oct 29, 2019

A Bloomington council member who served on the Cannabis Task Force says she’ll support allowing sales in her city—but so-called “cannabis cafes” may be a bridge too far.

Julie Emig from Ward 4 was one of two council members who served on the task force, along with Ward 6’s Jenn Carrillo. The council voted Monday to forward the discussion to the Planning Commission for a public hearing focused in part on zoning and siting issues for cannabis businesses.

Emig told WGLT she supports allowing cannabis sales in Bloomington, and so do most of the constituents she’s heard from. But they have reservations about letting those same businesses allow cannabis use on-site, such as cannabis cafes or smoke lounges, Emig said.

“I think it’s a big enough step and big enough paradigm shift that offering that in addition (to sales) would at this point be harder for more people to get their heads around,” Emig said.

If they don’t opt out of sales, the state’s new legalization law allows municipalities like Bloomington to tack on up to 3% in local sales tax on all cannabis sales.

Emig said there may be a good reason to start at a lower tax rate and incrementally adjust it later.

“What you don’t want to do is create an opportunity for cannabis to be so expensive that there’s this underground black market,” Emig said. “That’s a legitimate concern that we have to control for and watch for.”

Emig said she’d like to see any revenue generated from cannabis sales be earmarked for a related expense, such as addiction services, educational programming in schools, or to train police on how to detect or measure impaired driving.

“That work is going to happen regardless,” she said. “There might be an opportunity to generate some of that revenue and funnel it for public safety.”

Emig said she’s eager to hear what public feedback emerges at the Nov. 13 public hearing in front of the Planning Commission. The city council could have its long-awaited yea-or-nay vote on cannabis sales in December.

“It’s helpful to have something that’s not just a conversation at a coffee shop, or a random conversation with a (Cannabis) Task Force member, but something a little more formalized, so we can have a record of input,” Emig said.

Bloomington would be eligible to get a maximum of two dispensaries in the initial round of licensing, though parts of the city would get preferential treatment by the state because they were "disproportionately affected" by the war on drugs.

People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.