Two city bodies last week agreed on recommendations for cannabis-related businesses within Vandalia boundaries, including where those businesses could locate.
And, while they were hashing out those recommendations, two local residents urged the city not to allow any type of cannabis business.
The joint meeting of Vandalia Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Adjustments was held to add some specifics to the draft of an ordinance that will go to the city council for action. Four aldermen were also present for that meeting.
At the outset of last Wednesday’s meeting, City Administrator LaTisha Paslay told the participants that the Fayette County Board has established limits on the number of licenses for different types of cannabis-related businesses in unincorporated areas of the county.
Those limits, she said, are three licenses for growers, three for cultivation centers, two for infuser organizations, two for processors and five for transporting.
The county board also decided against any licenses for dispensing businesses.
The city, Paslay said, could also set limits on the number of licenses.
It could also, she said, handle cannabis licenses the same way that it does liquor licenses – start at zero and consider setting or increasing the number of licenses as applications for the respective type of business is received.
All types of cannabis businesses would have to be licensed by the state in order to apply for local licenses, Paslay and City Attorney Ryan Connor emphasized.
Connor told the participants that they could, if they desired, recommend that the city set limits on the number of licenses, but their job was to give recommendations on where cannabis-related businesses could locate and whether or not those businesses would be allowed with special use permits.
As to possibly setting limits on the number of license, Connor said, “It would be odd to me, based on the structure of your code, for this body to make a recommendation on number of businesses, you don’t do that for liquor.
“But, but realistically, the draft as you have in front of you doesn’t really say anything about how many of each kind, because it’s really more concerned with the nuts and bolts, the wheres and the in what circumstances. And will there be special uses and things like that, as opposed to how many,” Connor said.
He did point out that the state is encouraging municipalities to treat cannabis like liquor when setting laws.
“We’ve all been encouraged statewide to consider this analogous to liquor, that if you think about it as alcohol is regulated, you’ll be in the right ballpark, but not everything’s the same. The law is a little bit different, but think of it in terms of your ability to regulate it in a very similar fashion
“The statute has a lot of the similar (language) as to how we use liquor,” Connor said.
Paslay said that the reason for looking at establishing cannabis laws is that the city has been approached by “a potential prospect.”
That prospect, she said, is a craft grower who is interested in property in the area of the city’s western Interstate 70 interchange.
The prospect is looking at starting out with 50 jobs, with the possibility of increasing to 130 jobs in the second year.
The members of the two bodies agreed that for all types of cannabis-related businesses – such as craft grower, cultivations center, dispensary, infuser, processor and transporter – the best zoning area would be in the interstate exchange overlay that includes general commercial, light industrial, general industrial and agricultural.
The recommended setback limits for day cares, schools, retirement homes or residential areas are 500 feet for dispensaries, 200 feet for transporters and 400 feet for all other types.
Among the points about cannabis-related businesses brought up during the meeting is that they will be enclosed, not out in the open, and that they will have significant security measures in place.
During the discussion, three residents encouraged the city not to allow any types of cannabis-related business.
David Dyer, who said he had spent a couple of days gathering information and doing research on the topic, said he had copies of the ordinances in the Northern Illinois communities Naperville and Arlington Heights.
“The marijuana industry doesn’t want us to know all the negative aspects,” Dyer said, “They want to say how good it is and things like that.”
He was presenting to those two bodies information from the American Family Institute and No Weed Illinois about the effects of marijuana.
Dyer said one group claims that for every dollar of tax revenue created by cannabis-related businesses, about $4.50 is spent “to mitigate the effects of legalization.”
Problems with marijuana, he said, include health issues and employee productivity.
On the health issue, Dyer said, “When you have like kids in junior high who start smoking. They can lose like four IQ points, because it hinders their development.
“Another statistic was, I think, it was three quarters of the people who start with marijuana start in the teen years. We know the law says you’ve got to be 21 to be smoking it, but if it’s available, they will find a way to get it, and they’ll start using it.
“I think, due to those observations, it’s not good for us to be having marijuana businesses,” Dyer said.
“The state said, we’re going to legalize marijuana – we had to go along with it. That doesn’t mean that doesn’t mean we like it.
“If we, as a city say, that money looks enticing, well, let’s go for it – it will help us, it will pay for this, it will pay for that, it will pay for the other, what we’re telling the people, not only we’ve got to let you use it if you get it someplace, or saying it’s okay to use it, please, go ahead and do it,” Dyer said.
He said that legalized cannabis will be available in other communities. “I would hope that we, as a city, say we can do without this.”
Neil Clark, a former alderman who now serves on the Zoning Board of Adjustments, said, “Figures lie and liars figure – lot of the stuff you’re seeing here is one side of the situation.
“I’m quite sure that no one in this room is not even going to believe that kids are getting marijuana in the city of Vandalia,” Clark said.
Mike Fulton, a member of the planning commission said, “It’s there if you want to. If you want to get it, it’s always been there.”
Only one person, former alderman Jerry Swarm, who now serves on the planning commission, voted to send the recommendations on to the council.
Planning commission members voting for the recommendations were Fulton, Larry Hoffek, Nathan Miller, Jim Pryor and Tony Simmons.
Zoning board members present, all of whom voted for the recommendations, were Clark, Kim Shank and Melissa Depew.