CHAMPAIGN — Having already passed a 3 percent municipal tax on recreational cannabis and new zoning rules on where cannabis businesses can be located, the Champaign City Council is set to discuss a few more regulations Tuesday.
In focus are social consumption in private spaces as well as conforming city ordinances to the new state law that takes effect Jan. 1.
The changes are “all pretty straightforward,” said Deputy City Manager Matt Roeschley, and council members will mostly be asked to make sure local regulations conform to state statutes that will allow for cannabis paraphernalia and new penalties for specific situations, such as driving while high, possession by a minor or public consumption.
“The city manager will be asking council if they want to add some additional ordinance provisions to address other possible violations that would be new things with the change in state law,” Roeschley said. “A city ordinance violation defaults to misdemeanor offense, and gives police officers a lower-level tool to deal with behaviors that run afoul of state law and city ordinances without criminalizing the folks involved.”
That tool is common among municipalities if they believe that certain behaviors require consequences but do not necessarily need to be escalated to the purview of the state justice system.
Roeschley also said that those cannabis-related crimes aren’t a top priority for law enforcement, and numbers in a report to the city council bear that out.
Citations for possession of cannabis, for example, have seen steep declines since 2015. Police issued 194 in 2015, 120 in 2016, 144 in 2017, 98 in 2018 and 42 to date this year.
Council members will also tackle the issue of social consumption in private spaces.
“We want the council to give us direction on whether they would like for us to put together a regulatory licensing scheme,” Roeschley said. “The question is whether they want to opt out of having those rules, wait and see, or set up the framework.”
As it stands now, Roeschley said he doesn’t know of any imminent cannabis-business projects that would allow consumption on premises. Any license request like that will likely come in the first half of 2020, as the state will be issuing more licenses for dispensaries in May.
“It’s possible there could be a new license fee in our jurisdiction once the state approves its new wave of license fees that are not by-right like the ones given to existing medical dispensaries,” Roeschley said. “It’s possible we could see a proposal for a social-consumption space at that point in May.