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Local

Council weighs marijuana options

DIXON – Recreational marijuana is coming Jan. 1, and the City Council must start making decisions soon on whether to tax it, prepare zoning regulations for dispensaries or shut the door on such establishments.

At the start of the new year, private recreational use of marijuana in Illinois will be legal for those 21 and older, and medical marijuana card holders will be allowed to grow up to five plants for personal use.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed off last month on the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, lengthy and extensive legislation impacting several state departments and amending dozens of existing state statutes.

Municipalities can choose to implement a specific sales tax for recreational marijuana up to 3 percent for cities, or up to 3.75 percent for counties and unincorporated areas.

The act also allows local governments control to enact “reasonable zoning regulations” for dispensaries such as limiting where they can be located, or they can opt out of having any dispensaries. Cities also could regulate shops where people could smoke on the premises.

The city has almost a year to decide to tax it, but those taxes wouldn’t go into effect until September 2020, and the city wouldn’t start to see revenue until December or so.

Zoning regulations, however, can take a long time to draft and approve and will need to be in place before Jan. 1.

Mayor Li Arellano Jr. said they need to start thinking about the zoning details and if they should require a special-use permit for dispensaries.

Some communities are thinking of limiting dispensaries to industrial districts, but Councilman Ryan Marshall said if Dixon is going to allow them, council members might not want to isolate a dispensary to the edge of town to encourage visitors to do more shopping.

The Illinois Municipal League is distributing model ordinances and other guidance for how communities can address recreational marijuana, and Councilman Dennis Considine said they should wait and see what the resources are.

“There’s nothing we can put our arms around right now; it’s just our own thinking,” he said.

State residents will be able to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana – out of state visitors can legally possess half of that – and the act also authorizes expungements for past convictions for non-violent cannabis offenses.

Cities will also receive 8 percent of the state’s Cannabis Regulation Fund to go toward crime prevention programs and training.

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