City continues cannabis deliberation

Katie Fata

The topic of marijuana sales in Bloomington continues as the city council meets in preparation for council action in December. 

At their Oct. 17 meeting, an assembled task force voted informally 6-3 with one member absent in favor of Bloomington allowing the sale of recreational marijuana. 

The official recommendation at the Oct. 21 council meeting was that Bloomington should allow sales, with the note that seven out of the 10 members of the force favored the decision. 

Discussion continued at the Oct. 28 meeting, after the force was asked present drafted ordinances on regulations of sales the week before.

Bloomington is eligible to instate two dispensaries within city limits when recreational marijuana is legalized throughout Illinois in January 2020. 

Meetings have taken place since late September and a task force was assembled to explore the advantages and disadvantages of allowing commercial sales in the city. 

At the council’s Oct. 28 meeting, public opinions were taken into account before discussion turned to preemptive zoning ordinances centered around the possible dispensaries. 

The draft presented suggests banning them within 250 feet of residential areas and 500 feet of schools, daycare centers, churches and playgrounds. 

City attorney Jeff Jurgens presented a draft of an amendment that will go before the planning commission based on a model provided by the Illinois Municipal League.

The ordinance will help the council to eventually determine where Bloomington could possibly locate a dispensary when recreational sales become legal. 

With elementary, junior high, high schools as well as IWU located in the city, the zoning of the dispensaries is limited. 

The zoning restrictions are meant to keep students and citizens safe and concerns about the consequences of the recreational sales were brought to the council’s attention by Deb Carter, an addiction specialist who served on the task force. 

According to Carter, addiction impacts between 30 and 40 percent of Bloomington adult residents who currently use a form of cannabis. 

The distance of the possible dispensaries from Illinois Wesleyan could have an impact on students’ usage of marijuana and health, which is why zoning discussions are continuing to take place.

The council’s Nov. 13 meeting will involve a public hearing on the subject, and students interested can attend in the City Hall Council Chambers at 6:00 p.m.