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Council approves cannabis policies

  • Mayor Henry

    Mayor Henry

  • From left at Tuesday's city council meeting are council members Jeff Doherty, Adam Loos and Tom Grant, City Clerk Jennifer Sorrell and Mayor Mike Henry.

    From left at Tuesday's city council meeting are council members Jeff Doherty, Adam Loos and Tom Grant, City Clerk Jennifer Sorrell and Mayor Mike Henry.
    Geoff Ritter photo

By Geoff Ritter
updated: 10/11/2019 4:54 PM

The city council rolled out the welcome mat for cannabis in Carbondale Tuesday, approving a resolution welcoming cannabis dispensaries to operate in the city and also rolling back a previous ordinance banning marijuana paraphernalia within city limits.

By a 6-1 vote, the council approved both measures, which come following the approval of state legislation that takes effect Jan. 1 allowing recreational marijuana use. Carolin Harvey cast the lone "no" vote on both measures.

While approval of the resolution was not technically required -- each municipality in the state is automatically opted in to allowing cannabis sales unless they specifically opt out, as communities such as Murphysboro and Marion have done -- the council took up the measure in order to express civic support for such commerce in Carbondale.

"We have investors who are ready to spend money," said Mayor Mike Henry, who has taken a broad pro-cannabis stance in recent months.

The rollback of the paraphernalia ordinance, intended to bring city ordinance in line with the new reality of recreational marijuana in Illinois, was accompanied by a further change making public consumption of the substance punishable with a $75 fine -- a move Adam Loos noted would allow the city to prosecute such offenses as ordinance violations, which is a less severe alternative to civil prosecution.

Additionally, the city voted to approve a 2 percent city tax on the sale of cannabis. That is less than than the 3 percent the new state law allows municipalities to levy, but was seen as a compromise for some council members who hoped to see a lower, and thus more competitive, tax rate. Harvey, who opposed the other measures, suggested the 2 percent compromise; the measure ultimately passed, with both Jeff Doherty and Lee Fronabarger opposing.

None of this, however, means Carbondale will necessarily see a marijuana dispensary come Jan. 1. As previously noted by city Economic Development Director Steven Mitchell, the state law could allow Carbondale to have up to two dispensaries until an expansion of the law takes effect in late 2021.

One could be an expansion of The Harbory, the medical marijuana dispensary located in Williamson County just west of Marion. While Marion has opted out of recreational marijuana sales, Williamson County commissioners have approved a measure allowing such sales in that county. A second possible dispensary in Carbondale is wide open to developers, pending state licensure. Mayor Henry previously said he has spoken with multiple individuals interested in obtaining a license.

Henry said he has hopes of seeing Carbondale become a "cannabis destination."

"We're a destination, and I think people will come here," Henry said.

With a chuckle, he added this about the potential for other economic impacts of legal cannabis sales: "You always get hungry -- that's my understanding -- and they might want to go out to eat afterward."

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