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Mayor Sees 'Lots' Of Interest In Opening Marijuana Shops In Bloomington

Customer at dispensary
Morgan Lee
A customer at a medical marijuana dispensary in New Mexico earlier this year.

Mayor Tari Renner said the city has received “a lot” of interest from dozens of potential business owners who are interested in opening a marijuana dispensary in Bloomington.

But that doesn’t mean Bloomington will be overrun with dispensaries. The state has capped the number of dispensaries—especially in the first few months after marijuana is legalized Jan. 1.

There are currently 55 medical marijuana dispensaries in Illinois, including one in north Normal (The Green Solution). That business can apply to sell recreational marijuana too, as well as open a second location. But in May 2020, the state’s Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (DFPR) is expected to approve 75 new dispensaries, and then 110 more by the end of 2021. (DFPR is responsible for licensure and oversight of dispensing organizations in Illinois.)

Renner said the city should embrace marijuana sales, in part because it’s a revenue stream. Cities like Bloomington can tack on up to 3% excise tax on all marijuana sales.

Other downstate communities, such as Morton, have opted out of the marijuana sales business.

“This is me being purely Machiavellian as mayor to say, ‘Please, other communities, opt out so that (customers) have to come to Bloomington,” Renner joked on WGLT’s Sound Ideas.

Renner said he supports Bloomington City Council member Jenn Carrillo’s idea of forming a task force to help inform the city on local marijuana issues, using various stakeholders. Renner noted that the city has used similar task forces in the past for budget matters and downtown Bloomington development.

But he said he’s not sure if there’s enough council support to create the marijuana task force.

“Some people have expressed skepticism of the task force as a procedure,” Renner said. “But at the end of the day, these are questions we’ll have to wrestle with, because I don’t think there’s any question—we’re not going to be an opt-out city."

Renner said it’s also important for the city to work closely with the Town of Normal “to be sure, as much as possible, we’ve got the same language and same requirements in both communities.”

Could there be a joint task force between Bloomington and Normal?

“I think everything’s on the table with something like that, absolutely,” Renner said.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.