County officials discuss cannabis regulations, zoning

Effingham County Legislative and Personnel Committee Member Rob Arnold, left, discusses the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act and how it will effect the county as fellow committee member Joe Thoele, right, listens during the committee meeting Monday. Kaitlin Cordes photo

EFFINGHAM — An Effingham County Board committee on Monday discussed regulating and taxing cannabis sales and how to zone sellers and growers. The legalization of recreational marijuana starts Jan. 1 in Illinois.

Legislative and Personnel Committee of the Whole Chairman Jeff Simpson said he attended a recent seminar on the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act and found there are a limited number of actions a county can take in regulating recreational cannabis.

"There are things that we can do to regulate this somehow, but we are very rigidly held to a few things we can do. We can regulate site and times of sale and things like that via ordinance," Simpson said.

Simpson added that zoning is another option for regulations. Committee member and County Board Chairman Jim Niemann said by implementing zoning requirements, the county can restrict where cannabis sellers and growers can be located, especially around schools, churches, parks and subdivisions.

Simpson said only those with a medical license will be able to grow recreational marijuana, and growers will be limited to five plants. He said with current laws that apply to dispensaries like The Clinic Effingham, located on Ford Avenue, such facilities cannot be located within 1,000 feet of schools, churches or parks.

Committee member Rob Arnold voiced concerns over the effect of marijuana legalization on employment in the county. He questioned what employers and even the county as an employer would be able to do should an employee test positive for the drug.

"I'm assuming that if this is going to take place, (with) the testing of employees and the measurement of that in their system, since it hangs on much longer than alcohol does, is this going to be an issue or problem for employment opportunities and testing of employees after an incident or issue comes up? How does our employee handbook govern those issues?" Arnold said.

Simpson responded, saying the county would have to update its employee handbook to include restrictions on recreational cannabis use on the job.

Simpson said another issue the county is facing with the legalization of recreational cannabis is taxation. He said the county can tax the marijuana industry at 3.75 percent, and the county would get 8 percent of whatever is left over at the state level when those taxes are implemented.

"There's a 7 percent tax on the cultivation of cannabis, a 1 percent (tax) on prescription drugs and there is a 7 percent cultivation privilege tax to the cultivator. There's a 10 percent sales tax, and then there's a 25 percent purchase price tax if the THC is more than 35 percent," Simpson said. "It's going to be a nightmare, but we're going to have to decide if we're going to tax to get that 3.75 percent and if we're going to restrict where they're going and when they can sell and where they can grow."

Niemann said he would like to get a list from the county board and county zoning members of what to include in the zoning regulations in addition to cannabis growers and sellers. He added that the act was put on the committee agenda to get a conversation started before the law takes effect next year.

In other matters, the committee:

• Heard from a Smartwatt representative about engineering for an energy-efficient heating and cooling system for the county building.

• Moved to the full board a request from Bill Passalacqua for $500 from the county hotel-motel fund for an artisan residence program for his not-for-profit organization, Poss Music Works.

• Moved to the full board an amendment to Dr. Tina Rozene's term on the Board of Health from a one-year term to a three-year term and an appointment of Larry Doty to the Tri-County Fire Protection District Trustee position.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at kaitlin.cordes@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.