By Heart of Illinois ABC
BLOOMINGTON – The City of Bloomington will soon have its first marijuana dispensary after the city council Monday night approved a special use permit for the business.
However, the vote was not unanimous as council member Mboka Mwilambwe voted against granting the permit for Beyond/Hello open a dispensary at 118 Keaton Place, in the old Slim Chickens restaurant near Veterans Parkway and G.E. Road.
Approval of Beyond/Hello’s permit came on the same night the city council unanimously gave City Manager Tim Gleason a vote of confidence in the form of a three percent pay raise.
Beyond/Helllo runs the Twin-Cities only other medical and recreational cannabis store, located on Northtown Road in north Normal.
“I don’t think this is the appropriate time for us to have this particular business in the community,” said Mwilambwe.
During the public comment portion of the council meeting, a member of the city’s Public Safety and Community Relations Board, Surena Fish, said the dispensary will be too close to family-oriented businesses, including a restaurant and dentist office where children will be going in and out of the office.
Fish is also worried about crime after burglars broke into the Beyond/Hello store in Normal.
“It’s a cash business. It is drugs. They have already been broken into once June 1 in Normal, and it’s a magnet, especially when you put it on a cul-de-sac,” Fish said.
An executive with Beyond/Hello’s parent company, Jushi, noted the burglary happened during the looting that happened locally after George Floyd’s death.
“It’s sort of scary, quite frankly, when you’re talking about the legalization of cannabis that’s coming into your community,” said Nathan Wang, who’s the company’s new markets manager.
“Every community that we’ve had experience, after a few months, after we’ve established ourselves and been able to prove that we are upstanding business members and upstanding community members, the community had welcomed us with open arms,” said Wang.
In other business, the council without discussion rewarded City Manager Gleason with a two-year contract extension. With a three percent raise, Gleason’s base salary will be $197,219.
Gleason was hired in 2018, adding to his resume a career that includes running city governments in Decatur and Washington. He also spent 21 years as a Pekin police officer.
Heart of Illinois ABC can be reached at News@WJBC.com.