URBANA — The future of recreational-marijuana-related businesses in unincorporated areas like Penfield, Seymour and Dewey is in the hands of the full Champaign County Board, after a deadlocked Environment and Land Use Committee cast a pair of 3-3 votes Thursday night.
With Democrat Stephanie Fortado absent, the committee was left with three Democrats and three Republicans present for Thursday’s meeting.
First, a motion to adopt a zoning ordinance amendment allowing a variety of recreational-marijuana-related businesses — including dispensaries, transporters, craft growers, cultivation centers, infusers and processors — ended in a tie, with the Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.
Under the rules, because this was an amendment to an ordinance, the proposal dies, according to Zoning Administrator John Hall.
Next, a motion to adopt a brand-new ordinance prohibiting recreational-marijuana-related businesses in unincorporated areas also ended in a tie, but with both parties taking the opposite position.
However, since this is a new ordinance, Hall said the rules call for advancing that issue to the full board with no recommendation from the committee.
“This is a unique situation. I don’t know what happens next,” Hall said.
Penfield resident Casie Osterbur appeared before the committee to ask members to keep marijuana businesses out of her community.
“Penfield alone has 200 people, a majority of them being middle-class people in the agriculture sector,” Osterbur said. “This would be something I would not like to see in my town.”
Board member Eric Thorsland called for allowing the businesses by right.
“We voted not long ago to tax these businesses,” he said. “It seems odd to collect taxes in places that can’t have businesses. The rural mode of operation is: This is my land. I paid for it and pay my taxes. I don’t want the county to tell me what I can and can’t do, especially if I am within the realm of the law.”
Board member Jodi Eisenmann disagreed.
“My heart has always been for the children,” she said. “Let’s step back. Let’s slow down. I don’t think it will have a positive impact on any of these communities.”
The newest county board member, Connie Dillard-Myers, said she supports allowing cannabis businesses.
“Marijuana has medicinal purposes,” she said. “It helps old ladies to sleep at night. It helps people with their pain. People are going to want to purchase marijuana now that it is legal whether they live in Penfield or whatever.”
“If Mahomet doesn’t want a retail shop and we allow it, someone could put in a retail shop next to Lake of the Woods to sell in the Mahomet area,” said county board member Jim McGuire. “The community that decided they don’t want a marijuana business would be stuck with one.”