Listen to this article

URBANA — So, you’re thinking about starting a business in Illinois’ soon-to-be-legalized recreational-marijuana market.

Even if you can meet the rigorous state requirements — and snag one of the limited licenses — Champaign County may still decide to forbid marijuana businesses, at least in the areas where it has the authority to do that.

Under a proposed ordinance up for a vote tonight, the county could prohibit recreational-marijuana businesses such as cannabis-cultivation centers, dispensaries, craft growers, and infuser, processing and transporting businesses in all unincorporated areas.

The ordinance classifies a marijuana business in a prohibited area as a nuisance to be stopped using all available remedies.

A county board committee sent this ordinance to the full board without a recommendation after a tie vote down party lines, with Republicans in favor of the prohibition and Democrats against it.

Zoning Administrator John Hall said his office has gotten some calls from people interested in cannabis growing, though it’s unclear whether callers are familiar with the strict state requirements and significant investment involved.

The state won’t issue cannabis business licenses if they violate restrictions established by local jurisdictions, he said.

“The state gave counties the ability to opt out, so it’s important that the county board take advantage of that if they want to opt out,” Hall said.

There are five categories of state license types for new entrants into the recreational marijuana market — cultivation centers, craft growers, processors, transporting organizations and dispensing organizations.

State license fees alone run from $10,000 for transporting organizations to $40,000 for craft growers and processors.

Licenses are also limited. For example, the state Department of Agriculture plans to issue up to 40 craft grower licenses by July 1, 2020 and up to another 60 craft grower licenses by Dec. 21, 2021.

Some of the many requirements for craft growers include growing the marijuana in an enclosed, locked facility, implementing a security plan reviewed by state police that includes facility access controls, perimeter intrusion detection systems, personnel identification systems and a 24-hour surveillance system to monitor the interior and exterior of the facility and making the facility accessible to authorized law enforcement and the Department of Agriculture.

Jim Goss, a Republican on the county board’s Environment and Land Use Committee, said he planned to vote on the cannabis business prohibition the way his constituents want — though his personal position is that these businesses shouldn’t be permitted in unincorporated areas of the county.

That’s partly because, should something happen that requires police presence, the responders would be county sheriff’s deputies who could be some distance away, he said.

“It’s just that I’m trying to be cautious about it,” Goss said. “In the unincorporated areas, our police force is the sheriff’s department.”

Board member Kyle Patterson, a Democrat on that committee, said it’s unlikely marijuana dispensaries would be located in unincorporated areas. Other types of marijuana businesses would be more likely, he said, and those probably aren’t going to be accessible to the public.

Patterson said he doesn’t see these cannabis businesses attracting crime.

“It would certainly attract less crime than a bar,” he said.