The city of Morris this week became the first Grundy County municipality to say yes to recreational marijuana sales once adult use cannabis becomes legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020.
An ordinance amending the municipal code establishing zoning for adult-use recreational cannabis retail stores was approved by a 7-0 vote on Tuesday, with Fourth Ward Alderman Bill Martin absent from the meeting.
The vote means that come January, the city can approve business licenses for adult use cannabis establishments. The ordinance adopts state definitions and regulations for such retail outlets. Once a store is opened, the city will collect a 3% tax on cannabis sales.
The move was met with objections from some members of the community.
Morris Pastor Rick Barnard, who voiced his objections several times to the city council and the plan commission, said he was disappointed with the passage of the ordinance.
"Last week the schools had Red Ribbon Week," Barnard said. "The purpose of Red Ribbon Week is to encourage the students to not do drugs. I just think it's kind of ironic that we just approved recreational marijuana and we're telling our students don't do drugs... We're giving a message that this is okay."
But members of the council said the move isn't equivalent to approval of using pot from a moral standpoint. The elected officials said that approval was already made in Springfield, when the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act was enacted on June 25, 2019.
This move, members said, is simply a decision to allow sales locally.
"I don't think with it becoming legal Jan. 1 that you're going to see a boatload of people that just start smoking marijuana," said Third Ward Alderman Alex Clubb. "The people who are going to smoke it and buy it recreationally have been smoking it since they were in high school. I'm not going to smoke it or buy it, personally. It makes no difference to me with it being legal... If we opt out, [people] can drive three towns over and smoke it on the ride home."
Council members added that their decision was made after months of consideration and information, and isn't a matter of approving the actual use of marijuana.
The Grundy County Board is expected to vote on the issue on Nov. 12 for unincorporated areas of the county. A board committee has recommended that the board deny the establishment of retail sales in those areas under the county's control.