County looks at regulating pot sales

Officals could regulate as ordinance or ban sales

“It could open a whole can of worms.”

-Terry Ferguson

County land use chairman

CLINTON — Now that the State of Illinois has legalized recreational marijuana, the county will have to determine if it wants to adopt ordinance language regulating its sale or ban its sale in the county.

Illinois residents will be allowed to legally possess up to 30 grams of marijuana for recreational use beginning on January 1, 2020.  Individual users will be allowed to grow up to five plants.  Currently, possession of 10 grams or less generally results only in a citation.

Illinois currently has a medical marijuana pilot program regulated by the state and overseen by the Illinois State Police.  Clinton’s only medical cannabis outreach office closed in 2018.  The office was not a dispensary but guided qualifying patients through the procedure for obtaining a state medical marijuana card.

DeWitt County does not have a medical marijuana dispensary.

Many hospital and clinic facilities will not handle patients’ medical marijuana because it still in in violation of federal law.

County land use chairman Terry Ferguson introduced a text amendment to the committee this week that includes regulatory language provided by the Illinois Association of County Officials for cannabis sales.

“They provided some models of ordinances,” Ferguson said.

The association included an ordinance if the county decides to prohibit cannabis sales and another if the county chooses to establish a tax for cannabis sales.

“If there’s a dispensary out in the county, the county levies the full amount.  If it would happen to be in Clinton, there would be a split tax situation,” Ferguson said.

County zoning administrator Angie Sarver said she will be in a meeting with other Illinois zoning officials in September.

“And, I’ll get a lot of information then,” she said.

Ferguson said he did not see any “reason to reinvent the wheel because you’ve got pre-canned legalese that’s been approved by attorneys.”

“This would be more for the revenue,” Sarver said.  “For zoning, all we would probably have to do is add the word “recreational” to it.”

Sarver said she expected to know more after her meeting with other zoning officials.

Land use committee member Melonie Tilley said it seemed to her as though the state government approved legal recreational marijuana without being fully prepared to regulate it.

Sarver said USDA officials told her “we’re just doing it as it comes along because it is happening so fast.”

“I don’t know if there’s going to be a groundswell from people saying, ‘no we don’t want to have it’,” Ferguson said.  “It could open a whole can of worms.”

“It’s kind of an information thing right now,” Ferguson said.  

Ferguson said what his committee has so far should be forwarded to the Regional Planning Commission (RPC).  The RPC works with long range zoning planning for the county.


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