Colchester council tables discussion on cannabis

File image of Colchester City Council taken in Jan. 2020.

COLCHESTER, Ill. (NEWS3) — It is unknown when or if the Colchester City Council will take a vote on whether to allow cannabis-related businesses within city limits.

This comes after Monday night’s committee meeting where most aldermen agreed to send the measure to the police committee for discussion to iron out details.

City Attorney Mariah Wallace said it’s up to the council to decide on whether to issue a certain amount of licenses for pot establishments or prohibit those businesses from setting up shop in town.

Ward Two Alderman Ronnie Clark mentioned he wanted to hear from the council but ultimately let the police committee talk it over.

Wallace said pot lounges, craft growers, cultivation centers and dispensaries would be a cannabis-related business option in Colchester if the city council were to allow it. She said other area governments that have passed an ordinance to remain open to shops coming to town, are not only hopeful for the possible revenue, but also licenses becoming easier to receive and marijuana being more widely accepted. Wallace said the council can control where the businesses would be located and the proximity the sites are to places like schools and churches.

“I want to keep it open because there’s some good revenue that could come from that,” Ward One Alderman Eric Haines said. “It could happen tomorrow, or ten or 20 years from now.”

Ward Two Alderman and Police Committee Chairman Tim Smith said he’s not for or against the measure at this time until he learns more.

“To me, there’s too many unanswered questions,” Smith said. “I don’t want to put an ordinance out for or against it, then find out what’s going on ten or 15 years later.”

Wallace said the council could leave the topic and not make a decision on anything. However, she said there is a lot of gray area that still remains.

Ward Three Alderman Rory Mason said he feels the city should take advantage of allowing the cannabis-related businesses since neighboring towns have opted to do so already for the money.

“It’s going to make its way back to town anyway, so why not collect the revenue,” Mason said. “I’m really not for it, but I’m not going to stop it.”

Ward One Alderman Will Terrill said he would like to see the process move forward for a vote, so the city would be ready if someone became interested in starting up a shop.

“We can table it and not talk about it, but I would rather get ahead of it,” Terrill said. “It doesn’t mean someone can come and we can’t do anything about it; the power is still with us. I’d like to start making our town a yes-town.”

Ward Three Alderman Mike Eddy said he will be a no-vote no matter what, even though he understands how the measure could benefit the city with revenue. Eddy said he would first like the voters to decide on the issue of whether to allow the sell of alcohol before moving forward with a vote on cannabis.

“If it’s so good for these other places, why don’t they want them near a church or a school,” Eddy said. “Why do we tell our kids to stay away from drugs and not to do drugs, but then say ‘hey, let’s sell drugs.’ I would like to see it tabled to let the voters have their opportunity to vote on the alcohol first.”

Eddy raised a question about whether the public could vote on the measure regarding marijuana-related shops. Wallace said she’s unsure if that is possible given the petition set to go around about allowing the sell of alcohol, but she plans to check into it.

The discussion is scheduled to continue Thursday with the Colchester Police Committee.