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City Council edges forward with marijuana regulations

DIXON – The City Council made a consensus Monday to move forward with regulations allowing dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana and is slated to take a formal vote in December.

Last month, the council signed off on a 3 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana sales, which become legal for adults 21 and older Jan. 1 throughout the state.

Medical dispensaries will have the first opportunity to conduct recreational sales, and the state plans to award licenses for recreational dispensaries in May. Three of 75 licenses will be granted in the 10-county area that includes the Sauk Valley, and a developer interested in opening up a dispensary presented to the council in September.

The council went over draft ordinances that require dispensaries to have a city license in addition to a state license, amendments to police regulations to address local violations, and other restrictions that mirror state legislation.

The drafts also included zoning regulations for businesses, such as requiring a special use permit in industrial districts and allowing marijuana cultivators in manufacturing districts.

The city also can set the number of licenses, similar to liquor licenses, and would likely start out with a limit of one.

More specifics on locations and other restrictions such as business hours are being worked out. Cities can set regulations as long as they don’t conflict with state law or are “unreasonable.”

Mayor Li Arellano Jr., who participated via teleconference while on active military duty, said he would rather take a “wait and see” approach to allowing recreational dispensaries, but the four other council members made a consensus to move forward.

Communities cannot outlaw legal use of recreational marijuana but can opt out and close their doors to dispensaries.

Councilwoman Mary Oros said there’s a fair amount of controversy on the issue, but many people don’t understand that it’s the state’s decision to legalize it, not the city’s.

Councilman Dennis Considine said he was personally against it, but he would vote in favor because of interest in the community.

Once the ordinances are finalized, they will go to the Plan Commission, which will likely schedule a public hearing in November and make a recommendation to the council, for a final vote in December.

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