DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) - The Decatur City Council has voted against allowing recreational marijuana dispensaries in the city.
The vote came in a 6-1 tally Monday night after the council heard public comment at the Decatur Civic Center. The council's only "no" vote on the dispensaries question came from Councilman David Horn.
"By opting out of a dispensary, the city of Decatur is losing revenue from a legal product," Horn said. "In doing so, we also are preventing individuals from purchasing a legal product, and that, in turn, means that they may be more susceptible to buying products illegally."
"I think it's smart to take a 'wait and see' approach," said Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe, who voted against adding a dispensary. "We needed to take some action, but we didn't have to get in the business. We can always come back at a later date if we think it's a good idea and a missed opportunity. We can change our minds."
The council also voted 4-3 against allowing a recreational marijuana referendum on the 2020 election ballot.
When considering dispensaries, the city council considered multiple pros and cons. In terms of reasons against adding a dispensary, City Manager Scot Wrighton said in a letter (see the attached council agenda) that expanding access could mean law enforcement, criminal justice and drug treatment costs that could offset revenue from sales. He also argued there could be more crime near dispensaries because marijuana sales must be cash-only, and that workplace productivity and workplace attendance could suffer "in a job market that already struggles to fill available job slots".
Arguments for a dispensary included the potential for tax revenue, the fact that people could go somewhere else to get marijuana if it's not offered in Decatur and the chance for new business opportunities that could help the local economy.
Wrighton estimated Decatur could make between $206,000 and $360,000 per year from recreational marijuana sales and excise taxes.
A few dozen people made public comments, with about three-fourths of them speaking in favor of adding dispensaries. One of the people who spoke against them was Macon County Sheriff Tony Brown, who already made comments to WAND-TV about why he is against dispensaries.
Decatur leaders also voted 4-3 against allowing marijuana processing facilities in city limits, the second question on the agenda.
No decision came Monday night on what ordinance restrictions should be placed on open consumption and use of marijuana. That issue was the third question on the agenda.
Other central Illinois towns recently made decisions about marijuana sales. Chatham officials voted earlier in September to not allow dispensaries, following the lead of Forsyth. Springfield leaders passed an ordinance allowing sales.
Recreational marijuana use becomes legal for Illinois adults at age 21 or older on Jan. 1, 2020. Find out more about what that law involves here.