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Planning for pot: Rock Falls working out where marijuana shops can be located

Adult use designation would keep businesses in industrial parks

ROCK FALLS – The city took a step forward in preparing for the legalization of recreational marijuana on Thursday, focusing on where all five business classifications can be located.

The Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing before discussing what will be included in a general zoning ordinance – basically where the buildings would be and what they will look like.

A separate ordinance will be drawn up for the much more difficult task of regulating the businesses. That will include licensing and setting hours of operation. That job will be undertaken by the ordinance committee before it is moved to the council for its approval. An ordinance also is needed to establish the city tax on marijuana sales, which can’t exceed 3%.

The commission approved a zoning motion made by member Rick Turnroth that will be moved to the council. If it becomes code, it would allow all business classifications – dispensing, processing, transporting, cultivation centers and growers – but restrict them to the industrial parks. The businesses would be classified as adult use rather than special use.

The city already has an ordinance on the books that keeps adult use businesses exclusively in the industrial parks, so the use would dictate location.

The motion also says that building design will be addressed in the ordinance. The state law mandates that marijuana be grown indoors.

“State statute has a lot of language on security specs, but we’ll need to get police input on building design for things like tinted windows,” said Mark Searing, the city’s building inspector.

The initial recommendation should meet the council’s expectations, based on the medical marijuana template drawn up by the city for dispensaries.

“The council was looking to mirror medical marijuana at a minimum so we are ready for Jan. 1 and the next round of licenses, which are supposed to come out in July,” City Administrator Robbin Blackert said.

Turnroth suggested that the commission have a meeting with the council before an ordinance is drawn up, and a session will be scheduled.

There is still some resistance on the commission to the general issue of legalizing recreational marijuana, leading to a discussion about opting out – currently a murky legal path to navigate.

“How can they force us to do something that’s against federal law? We have enough problems dealing with alcohol,” Commissioner Chuck Koehler said.

The city must follow what the state has on its books. Municipalities could technically opt out, but not without risk, City Attorney Matt Cole said. At some point, opting out could bring litigation.

“I think it’s important to talk about opting out, but the language basing that on doesn’t actually say you can opt out. There will be clarification on that later,” Blackert said.

It’s not likely that those answers will come before the state legalization law kicks in on Jan. 1, although the Illinois Municipal League has been lobbying for clarification prior to that date.

The IML has asked lawmakers to come up with a trailer bill, companion legislation that would clear up anything deemed unclear in the original statute.

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