City Council approves moratorium for cannabis businesses

Hannah Shillo, Associate News Editor

The Charleston City Council voted unanimously to establish a moratorium for cannabis businesses at its meeting Tuesday evening.

This moratorium was established to study the introduction of cannabis businesses in Illinois and develop the appropriate regulations consistent with the intent of the city’s zoning ordinance, according to the finding of fact for the ordinance.

In addition to studying the introduction of the businesses in the state, the moratorium will allow the city to study the environmental effects of cannabis businesses and review and correct any errors in the current regulations that do not explicitly contemplate cannabis businesses.

Charleston Mayor Brandon Combs said the moratorium was established because of the unknown effects cannabis businesses will have on Charleston.

Combs said the state of Illinois does not currently have significant regulations regarding cannabis business establishments.

“Right now, the state doesn’t even know how all of this is going to roll out,” Combs said. “If the state doesn’t know, how are we supposed to know what’s going to happen?”

Gary Henigman, of Charleston, said establishing a moratorium will deter cannabis businesses from setting up shops in Charleston.

“Several years ago, the City Council did the exact same thing with medical marijuana,” Henigman said. “They established a moratorium on the growing of medical cannabis and the dispensing of medical cannabis.”

Kelley Esker, director of community outreach with Green Thumb Industries, invited the council, other city administrators and Charleston Police Chief Chad Reed to tour the Effingham facility when she spoke at the meeting Tuesday evening.

“As a company, we’ve been through this process already and we are here to assist and answer any questions that the council or your community has regarding adult use,” Esker said. “We are very knowledgeable and educated and we just want to offer that to you as well.”

Esker said Green Thumb Industries currently has 32 dispensaries in 12 states throughout the country.

Henigman said the moratorium sends the wrong message to businesses like Green Thumb Industries who will attempt to establish dispensaries in Charleston.

“It could result in much needed revenues for the city,” Henigman said.

Linda Marsicano of Green Thumb Industries said in an emailed statement that cannabis businesses will be beneficial for the city in more than just revenue.

“We believe that allowing adult-use sales will benefit the community in terms of tax revenue, job creation and community oversight and look forward to continuing the conversation,” Marsicano said.

While he is disappointed in the result of the vote Tuesday night, Henigman said he understands what the city is concerned about.

“I’ll follow what the City Council does, and I’ll keep an eye out for how the laws are developing,” Henigman said. “It is a very fluid thing the state of Illinois and the laws that are going to govern this legislation, but they got to hammer out the details.”

Combs said a moratorium does not mean there will not ever be cannabis businesses in Charleston.

“We just put it there to do the research and if after a month we’ve found out all the research that we need to know, we can turn around and say, ‘Hey guess what? We’re in business,’” Combs said. “We’re not saying we’re not open for business; we’re not saying that we’re against it. We’re saying that we want to do proper research as our due diligence to our citizens and to Charleston before we just say yes to something that is still up in the air.”

Combs said he needs more from the state regarding regulations on how to train officers to do field sobriety tests, abiding by city code and worrying about people showing up to work.

“We don’t have any of that in place,” Combs said. “You have to have all of these things set into place.”

Hannah Shillo can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].