URBANA — Recreational marijuana becomes legal in Illinois in less than a month, but it may be next spring before Champaign County officials establish regulations for cannabis businesses in the county’s unincorporated areas.
Two weeks ago, the county board debated a controversial ordinance that would have prohibited such businesses as marijuana craft growers, dispensaries, transporters, infusers and processors in unincorporated areas such as Penfield and Seymour and wound up sending it back to a board committee to hammer out a compromise.
The board’s Environment and Land Use Committee meeting was scheduled to meet tonight, but the meeting was canceled.
The committee chairman, Republican Aaron Esry, said a discussion on a compromise measure won’t likely be back before that group until January or February 2020.
This week’s meeting was canceled due to lack of a location, Esry said. The room where it would have normally been held was set up for a tax sale Friday, he said.
County Zoning Administrator John Hall said there’s no immediate rush to take action on marijuana business restrictions before recreational marijuana becomes legal in the state Jan. 1.
“I think the reality is no business is going to get their state approval in a very short time,” he said.
County Executive Darlene Kloeppel agreed there’s no need to hurry.
Some board members want more time to discuss this issue with their constituents, and there’s a legal process that will need to be followed once a compromise is reached, she said.
People may be panicking because Jan. 1 is coming up, Kloeppel said, “but there are still a lot of administrative details to work out.”
Hall said he is already at work on a compromise measure based on comments made at the Nov. 21 county board meeting.
What he plans to send back to the committee to consider will be a change in the county zoning ordinance that would, essentially, prohibit marijuana businesses within the mile-and-a-half zones of communities where these businesses aren’t wanted.
The other major part of the proposed compromise would be allowing marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas that are within a mile and a half of cities and towns that plan to allow those businesses to operate, Hall said. But, he said, the county’s regulations in these particular unincorporated areas would need to match those established in the communities they surround.
Since this would require a change in the county zoning ordinance, Hall said, it would have to go through the Environment and Land Use Committee and the proper public hearing process before the Zoning Board of Appeals to give the public a say.
By the time all that occurs, it could be as late as May before the county takes final action on marijuana business rules, Hall said.
Esry said he could likely live with the kind of compromise measure Hall is drafting, but he doesn’t know how board Democrats would respond.
Board Democrat Stephanie Fortado said she could probably support a compromise like one suggested at the recent board meeting — that dispensaries be prohibited in unincorporated areas of the county but other marijuana business be allowed.
However, she said, once recreational marijuana becomes legal in the state, she also believes people ought to be allowed to do what state law allows.
“If people want to participate in a legal business, they should be allowed to,” she said.