Potential recreational cannabis businesses now know where in Normal they can and cannot locate.
The Normal Town Council voted Monday to approve zoning amendments regulating adult-use cannabis facilities, essentially allowing such businesses when state legalization goes into effect Jan. 1.
“I think we did the best we could to have a true balance in the process,” said council member Chemberly Cummings. “The reality of it is that it’s coming. We will have legalized marijuana, so how do you do the best to manage the process? I think we’ve done a good job.”
The council voted 6-1 in favor of amending the zoning code according to recommendations advanced by the planning commission, with Stan Nord casting the lone vote in opposition.
“There’s a limit on the licenses and we don't even know if we'll get anybody who will get the license. But we want to leave it open for that opportunity,” said Cummings.
“In a community like this, marijuana is here now. It’s here,” added Mayor Chris Koos. “The fact that we’re legalizing it gives us the ability to raise some tax dollars from it, and it gives the potential buyer a little more known idea of what they’re buying.”
Any of the six types of cannabis businesses (craft growing, cultivation, dispensing and sales, infusion, processing and transportation) will be allowed. The zoning restrictions will require all cannabis-related businesses to receive special use permits, which would need to be approved by the council.
“I feel like we made good policy tonight by doing special use, because we can take a look at every situation and make sure it’s what’s best for our community,” said Cummings. “We can literally look at it on a case-by-case basis and make a sound decision.”
Tax On Cannabis Sales
The council also unanimously approved establishing a 3% tax on cannabis sales. Nord proposed amending the tax ordinance to designate 100% of the revenue to police and fire pensions, but that motion got no additional council support.
“I don’t think generally that’s a good idea with any future tax that you have,” said Koos. “The idea that we’re just going to take it and put it in the pension system, we don’t even know what it is. Is it $25,000? Is it $100,000? We just don’t know.”
Cannabis businesses would not be permitted within 100 feet of daycares, churches or schools, or within 200 feet of single-family residential areas. Additionally, no cannabis businesses would be allowed in Uptown Normal, near mobile home parks, or on Main Street between Gregory and Division streets to limit access near Illinois State University.
In September, state officials included areas surrounding ISU among 683 census tracts hit hard by the war on drugs. Those areas will get an advantage in the state's application process, but Cummings said she doesn't see zoning out the ISU area as a contradiction.
“We also have to think about the safety of our students and the accessibility to students, especially when we’re talking about age,” said Cummings. “The legalization age is 21 and a majority of our students are not yet 21.”
Normal’s restrictions include prohibiting on-site use. Last week, Bloomington’s planning commission recommended the city allow so-called cannabis cafes.
“I just didn’t think on-site use (was a good idea) at this point,” said Koos. “I’d like to see what’s going to happen in the community, and that’s something we could always add later. But there was universally no interest on the council to go that far this early.”
A maximum of three licenses will be granted in 2020 for businesses in McLean and DeWitt counties. Andrew Cordes of The Green Solution medical dispensary in north Normal said the business intends to seek a dual-use license.
“We think we’ve done a good job of serving the patients here in Normal, and we think we can be an economic driver for the town of Normal,” said Cordes, adding the business plans to add a minimum of 20 employees.
While The Green Solution is only 98 feet from a church, corporation counsel Brian Day said the existing business would meet a lower 75-foot buffer allowed under a grandfather provision.
“I did not want us to infringe on their opportunity to stay,” said Cummings. “The reality is if we didn't allow them to expand, they'll find somewhere else to grow and expand.”
Former council member Jeff Fritzen had urged the council to opt out of allowing cannabis businesses, saying it “flies in the face of a lot of things this council has stood for over the last several years.”
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