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Public radio stations throughout Illinois joined forces to tackle the issue of marijuana as the state considers making recreational use legal.

Springfield Council Approves Recreational Cannabis Zoning

Wikimedia Commons/user: Bogdan

Springfield City Council members Tuesday approved where pot shops can operate once it’s legal to buy and sell recreational cannabis January 1.  

Cannabis businesses would not be allowed to operate within 1,500 feet of churches, schools and parks. The zoning changes also expand where those shops could go and now includes S-3 zoning that would normally include retail shops and other areas of entertainment; B-1 zoning that includes businesses by highways; as well as B-2, I-1, and I-2 zoning. 

The state’s recreational marijuana law allows current medical dispensaries to sell and to open one additional location for recreational pot sales. 

HCI Alternatives, the only medical dispensary downtown is looking to expand that recreational service to a vacant building, a former Outback Steakhouse location at 3201 Horizon, on the east side. Adding B-1 zoning to the list of categories would allow HCI Alternatives to use this space for that purpose. 

Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turner said this could help revitalize the area where her constituents live. 

“I’m excited about a new business coming to the east side of Springfield. We talk all the time about businesses leaving the east side of Springfield, going to the west side of Springfield. And now we have a business that left the east side to go to the west side, being repurposed.”

Ald. Erin Conley, who oversees Ward 8, said she thinks the approach could encourage new businesses across the city—not just the east side. “This is one opportunity that we have been given,” she said. 

The state law also restricts how many dispensary licenses can exist within a metropolitan area. It caps licenses at five for the City of Springfield and the Sangamon and Menard counties region together. Within the City of Springfield, only four cannabis dispensary licenses can exist. 

Not everyone was on board with the zoning changes. Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin said he doesn’t want the city to allow pot sales and fears what that could do for the downtown area. 

“We don’t want people coming downtown to get high, using infused products and so forth—they wouldn’t need to be smoking it, they can get a gummy ball and be outside and pass around gummy balls,” he said. 

But other council members — the nine that voted in favor of the changes — said marijuana consumption would not be allowed in public spaces and allowing sales could be beneficial for downtown.

Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer said the city needs to embrace that marijuana will exist even if the council doesn’t allow recreational sales. “The gummy balls are going to be in our cities, whether we like it or not,” he said. “It’s here.”

Daisy reported on statehouse issues for our Illinois Issues project. She's a Public Affairs Reporting program graduate from the University of Illinois Springfield. She also graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology, and has an associates degrees from Truman College. Daisy is from Chicago where she attended Lane Tech High School.
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