By Howard Packowitz
BLOOMINGTON – A local government panel believes recreational marijuana users in Bloomington should be able to smoke pot at dispensaries that sell the drug.
The Bloomington Planning Commission Wednesday evening voted 7-2 to recommend an ordinance change that might make the city the first in Illinois to allow onsite consumption.
City staff’s research found no other Illinois cities allowing or thinking about allowing onsite marijuana use.
Commissioner Justin Boyd sees the social justice angle because certain populations might not be able to find private places to smoke pot if they don’t own their homes.
Boyd also said it would be a mistake not to take advantage of what could be a tremendous tourist attraction because of the city’s location along U.S. Route 66, and the likelihood that pot smoking won’t be allowed in hotels.
“We’re not talking about having these on every block. We’re talking about two within our city limits at the very most, and to draw potential tourists to that, outside revenue coming into our city, I think is an important thing we should consider as well,” said Boyd.
Commissioners Tyson Mohr and David Stanczak voted against onsite consumption. Mohr said some people are very nervous about having marijuana in the community.
“I don’t think it’s time to allow onsite use,” said Mohr.
“I would like to see us develop towards that, and get more comfort as a culture of where that fits and how before we would make that choice,” Mohr said.
“If we don’t allow on-premises consumption at the present time, we can always back off on that with very little difficulty,” said Stanczak.
“If we allow it now, and it turns out to be a fiasco, it’s going to be a whole lot tougher to go back on that,” Stanczak added.
The commission’s action followed a public hearing that featured 14 speakers. Six of them want the city government to opt out of having cannabis related businesses here.
Staffers have set December 9 or 16 as tentative dates for final city council action.
Meantime, a manager for Denver-based Jushi Holdings announced during the hearing that the company is awaiting state government approval to buy The Green Solution, which runs a medical marijuana dispensary in North Normal.
Jushi’s New Markets Manager Nathan Wang said the firm is looking to open a second location, possibly in Bloomington.
Howard Packowitz can be reached at email@example.com