An Effingham County Board committee began an important discussion this week that we should all take part in. You'll have plenty of opportunity in the coming months as Illinois prepares for recreational marijuana to become legal on Jan. 1. That's when people over the age of 21 will be able to possess up to 30 grams of the cannabis flower, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate and 500 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
The county board members on Monday discussed regulating and taxing cannabis sales and how to zone sellers and growers. Jeff Simpson, chairman of the Legislative and Personnel Committee, attended a recent seminar on the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. He learned 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," Simpson said. "We can regulate site and times of sale and things like that via ordinance."
Simpson added that zoning is another option for regulations. Committee member Jim Niemann – the county board chairman – said by implementing zoning requirements, the county can restrict where cannabis sellers and growers can be located. That's an important tool when you consider the location of schools, churches, parks and subdivisions.
We agree with committee member Rob Arnold for voicing 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.
It's a question that goes beyond local government. You need to know this about the new law: There is little local officials can do to stop the legal use of recreational marijuana in our communities. But there are steps businesses, landlords and others can take. They must educate themselves about those steps, however.
We encourage local governments to begin now the discussions that the county board is having – if they haven't already. And we encourage residents of those communities to join those discussions.
We have no more problem with legalization of the recreational – and responsible – use of marijuana than we do with the legal consumption of alcohol. Alcohol is carefully regulated by local ordinances and state law. It's leafy cousin should be, too.