Springfield City Council Considers Selling, Taxing Recreational Marijuana

Sep 11, 2019

Springfield’s City Council Tuesday debated rules for the sale of recreational cannabis, but some residents want the city to ban sales altogether. Under the new state-wide recreational cannabis law, cities and villages can allow the retail sale of the drug. Several cities, like Naperville, have already opted out.

Council members heard from some Springfield residents who say cannabis could damage the city once it becomes legal to buy in January. 

But Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer said even if the city decides to ban sales, people will still be able to use cannabis within the city. “I don’t like it, but I will say this, I would rather have it in a regulated state, where we do take advantage of the taxation on it, than let Jerome, Leland Grove or whoever take advantage of it.”

City leaders are considering an additional 3 percent sales tax on cannabis. The money would go toward police and firefighter pensions as well as economic development in certain parts of the city.

Another proposal would set tight restrictions on where dispensaries and cultivation sites can go. The resolution would attempt to match the guidelines used for medical marijuana shops. Some argue that those might be too strict. 

“Recreational is different than medicinal program and we’re in a different place right now and I think we want to be treating this as more of a business opportunity,” said Ward 8 Ald. Erin Conley. 

Council Members said they will continue to talk and amend the proposal to make sure it is fair to businesses and consumers. Current medical dispensaries get the first opportunity to apply for the recreational license. 

Chris Stone, CEO of Ascend/HCI Alternatives in Springfield, said the company has already submitted an application. He said if the council decides to opt out of recreational sales, then he will be forced to look outside Springfield for that business. 

Stone said he also thought the council’s zoning rules on recreational cannabis dispensaries could be restrictive to the business. But, he said, he agrees there should be some rules to how close a dispensary can be to parks, schools and churches. 

The debate over dispensary locations is the first of a few steps. The zoning board must study the issue and hold a public hearing before the city council can finally vote to approve the changes. This could happen in November.

The sales tax has a simpler path - the council could vote on it next week.