URBANA — While a long line remained outside a Champaign dispensary a week after legalized weed sales began, county officials planned to make another attempt at regulating marijuana businesses that might want to set up shop in unincorporated areas.
A county board committee is poised to take up a revised zoning change intended to strike a balance between allowing marijuana businesses to operate in rural areas and concerns about potential problems that could cause.
The amendment proposed by county Zoning Administrator John Hall — to be discussed Thursday night — would authorize marijuana businesses only within 1.5 miles of home-rule municipalities with populations of 20,000 or more — specifically, Champaign and Urbana — with restrictions largely matching those being imposed by the two cities.
For example, both cities prohibit consumption of marijuana on the premises of local dispensaries, and the county would likewise forbid that in the fringe area around Champaign-Urbana.
The amendment would also impose stricter requirements for cultivation centers and craft growers looking to operate near residential areas. The county board would need to approve special-use permits for those businesses within 300 feet on an existing home or lot.
That matches a requirement in Urbana, Hall said, but if the county amendment is approved, it would also apply to the area outside Champaign.
Also included in the amendment would be restrictions on night lighting, for example, at cultivation centers growing marijuana in greenhouses.
Hall has included an alternative to consider that would authorize cannabis transporters, cultivation centers and craft growers anywhere in the Ag-1 zoning district, with a transporter permitted only as a home occupation. However, there would be a 1.5-mile buffer required around villages and home-rule municipalities that don’t allow cannabis sales and around such residential areas as Seymour and Penfield.
“This creates many more opportunities at the risk of allowing these uses to convert more best prime farmland,” Hall said in memo to the county board Environment and Land Use Committee.
Meanwhile, marijuana customers continued to line up in below-freezing temperatures Wednesday outside Sunnyside Dispensary in Champaign.
There wasn’t a line outside the Urbana dispensary, NuMed Urbana, as of late Wednesday morning.
Sunnyside closed for one day on Monday to give a break to its exhausted employees, who have been working long hours since New Year’s Day, but has since resumed normal business hours, according to Jason Erkes, spokesman for Sunnyside’s owner, Cresco Labs.
The supply of marijuana products is holding out there, but sales are being rationed to stretch the supply as far as possible, Erkes said.
Cresco doesn’t anticipate having to close for a day again, he said.
“I think we’re in a good spot now,” he said.