By Howard Packowitz
NORMAL – A government panel is recommending the Town of Normal allow cannabis-related businesses, including dispensaries, when recreational marijuana use becomes legal in Illinois New Years Day.
Only Normal Planning Commission Chair A.J. Zimmerman voted against the recommendation to allow all six types of cannabis businesses, but with restrictions.
The commission does not want to allow dispensaries in Uptown Normal, at Illinois State University, and in mobile home parks. They would have to be at least 100 feet away from schools, day care centers, and churches, and at least 200 feet from single-family homes.
Planning Commissioner Rick Boser wondered if the regulations would make much of a difference for people who want the drug.
“How many liquor stores are in that area that we just excluded? There’s only going to be one or two dispensaries in all of Bloomington-Normal, or in DeWitt (County),” said Boser.
“It just seems like much ado about nothing. It’s not like they don’t have cars and Uber. If they want drugs, they’ll go get drugs,” Boser said.
Two of the 10 people who spoke at the public hearing were opposed to letting marijuana businesses operate here. Randall Lloyd is worried the social costs will wipe out financial benefits.
“This is a quality of life and financial issue, leading to a crisis for both,” said Lloyd.
Particularly in college towns, former Town Council member Jeff Fritzen sees marijuana damaging the minds of young adults whose brains aren’t fully developed yet.
McLean County Board member Laurie Wollrab said people her age want marijuana to be available locally to help ease aches and pains.
“I for one would like access to it in my own community,” Wollrab told the commission.
“My sales taxes will stay here, and I won’t have to drive across the country or the state to make my purchases,” Wollrab said.
The operations manager for the community’s only medical marijuana dispensary, on Northtown Road in north Normal, anticipates the business will seek a dual license to also sell recreational pot.
The Green Solution’s Andrew Cordes sees his business as an economic driver for Normal, more than doubling its workforce.
“We can help be an economic driver for Normal,” said Cordes.
“We currently have 12 employees normally staffed at our stores. We’re currently with the hopes of adult use planning on ramping up and hiring at least 20 more employees,” Cordes said.
All cannabis businesses would have to apply for special use permits with the town, meaning they would have to go through a public hearing process.
The Normal Town Council can make changes to the commission-approved ordinance at its November 18 meeting.
Howard Packowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org