Monticello's planning and zoning board has recommended the city adopt a 12-month moratorium on the establishment of marijuana growers and retailers in town.
After hearing on Monday from several people opposed to the possible sale and/or cultivation of marijuana within city limits, the PZB voted 3-2 to approve the moratorium.
City Administrator Terry Summers pointed out the move does not address the larger issue of whether sales will be allowed, just that it gives city officials longer to research it before making a decision.
“The moratorium will simply allow this council to conduct more research and to garner more public input until a decision can be made in the near future,” he said.
The city council is expected to consider the moratorium at its Sept. 23 meeting.
Shorter moratorium lengths were discussed by the PZB, a move suggested by audience member Steve Shreffler.
“I would recommend against a long moratorium,” he said, terming himself as “neutral” on the sales issue. “All that would serve to do would be to create more legal fees for a year as opposed to getting it over with in a month and prolonging it. I think a decision needs to be made.”
He proposed a month-long moratorium instead, saying the city could piggy-back off the research done in other states that have legalized recreational use.
“This is not something new,” he added, “There are other states out there to look at. Every one of their cities have done something with this.”
Michael Beem, the PZB member who presided over the meeting in the absence of Chairman Mike Hawkins, was amenable to a shorter timetable.
“I don't want to cut the legs out from under the city, but it seems that if we keep kicking the can down the road for another 12 months, then another 12 months, we're going to eventually get passed by or get ruled on, instead of being the one making the rules,” said Beem.
Mayor Larry Stoner said hopes are that a full year is not needed to make decisions on marijuana sales.
“I think the intent was making it a year, fully understanding we don't want to take that much time to get anything going. We want to bring resolution to this as quickly as we can,” said Stoner. “The only thing the moratorium does is, if we come up to an issue that we need to look a little bit more into, we'd like to have the flexibility to have enough time to do it correctly. We want to do it right the first time, so we don't have to stumble back and try to cover up the sins we commit.”
“I think the council wants to garner as much input as possible,” added Summers.
The PZB eventually decided on a 12-month moratorium, with Beem breaking a 2-2 tie. Voting against it were Marthaan Riegal and Shawn Spillman. Voting in favor were Elaine Yoon, Gerald Day and Beem.
Several push for no sales at all
Audience members testified that they would rather see an outright ban on recreational marijuana sales in the city.
“For our youth, much time and effort has been spent trying to keep them from the use of drugs and tobacco. Why would we send a mixed signal by supporting the sale of such a dangerous drug in our town?” said Rachel Defend, who added that Colorado hospitals have seen a spike in marijuana-related admissions since it was legalized there.
Maureen Airsman said sales to adults only would still be a bad example for town youth.
“These kids are still maturing. They have young brains, so it's easier for them to get hooked on something. For that fact we really should not sell it,” said Airsman.
Michael Westjohn felt marijuana sales would go against town values.
“The sign says 'unique Monticello.' Let's keep it that way, not add to people's misery,” said Westjohn.
The city council has already approved a 3 percent tax on cannabis sales if they are allowed. That was done at the advice of the Illinois Municipal League, which said the tax may need to be on the books by the end of September in order for the state to start collecting it when recreational cannabis sales become legal on Jan. 1.