PEORIA HEIGHTS — With a deadline approaching, communities across the state are on the clock to decide how to navigate the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act that makes selling and using marijuana in Illinois legal, with restrictions, beginning Jan. 1.
The law is complex. The range of options for municipalities is simple:
All in, all out or still deciding.
Just this week, for example, East Peoria agreed to impose a 3 percent tax on the sale of marijuana in the city; the Peoria Heights board of trustees reached an informal consensus to allow sales in the village; Metamora adopted the taxing ordinance; and Eureka shut the door, for now, on allowing pot sales in the city.
"It's just not a good fit for Eureka," said Mayor Scott Zimmer on Wednesday, the day after the City Council voted 6-1 to prohibit marijuana sales in the city, as the new law allows. "Eureka welcomes new businesses to our downtown where we have a limited amount of storefronts. A store selling recreational marijuana is not something we seek."
Communities have been advised by lawyers and the Illinois Municipal League that a decision on imposing a sales tax of up to 3 percent should be made by Oct. 1 if officials intend to start collecting the tax when the law takes effect in January. The deadline depends on whether the current timeline is changed by the state Legislature in an upcoming veto session, according to Scott Brunton, who serves as legal counsel for several area municipalities.
"When looking at a January 1, 2020, implementation date for the recreational marijuana municipal sales tax, as IML will be seeking in the veto session, the authorizing certified ordinance must be submitted by the municipality prior to October 1, 2019," Brunton said Wednesday.
Adopting the sales tax ordinance is not the same as allowing the sale of recreational marijuana in a village or city. In East Peoria, that vote will come on Sept. 17, after the city's zoning board has established rules regulating the citing and operation of a recreational marijuana retail store. The zoning board takes up the issue at its regular meeting on Monday.
In June, Illinois became the 11th state in the United States to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana for non-medical reasons. The law will allow adults to buy, own, smoke and ingest regulated amounts of marijuana. Municipalities can't prohibit the possession or use of marijuana but can regulate where dispensaries can be located and can also outright prohibit non-medical marijuana dispensaries within their boundaries. The state will initially issue 75 licenses for recreational marijuana sales, with the 60 already-licensed medical marijuana sales operations getting the first shot at recreational licenses.
The Morton Village Board wasted no time in rendering a decision. It voted unanimously on July 1 to ban recreational marijuana growers, cultivation centers and dispensing, processing and transporting facilities that could have set up shop in Morton less than one week after the state Legislature passed on June 25 the new law legalizing recreational marijuana within Illinois.
Zimmer said Eureka rejected the chance to sell legal marijuana for several reasons; mainly because it was unlikely that the city would be the recipient of one of the few available licenses and because there would be little, if any, financial gain to the city with a marijuana sales tax.
"First, we would have to hire an additional police officer if any substantial amount of marijuana was suddenly going to be flowing through the city of Eureka," Zimmer said. "And with a sales tax of 3 percent, we would have to sell millions of dollars (of marijuana) to cover that salary. The financial benefit is not a good argument for implementation. In our case it would be more of a burden than a gain."
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.