Highland, IL, still deciding on marijuana dispensaries


A final decision on marijuana dispensaries in Highland has been postponed until the state stay-at-home order is lifted.

The council voted April 6 to postpone a proposed vote to revisit its controversial ordinance allowing cannabis dispensaries in Highland. At the moment there are no dispensaries under development in Highland, but the council’s decision to allow permits for them brought much controversy last fall.

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Mayor Joe Michaelis said under the advice of the city’s legal counsel, the final dispensary vote should wait until a traditional public forum can be held with the ability to hear public comment on both sides of the issue.

Due to the stay-at-home order currently in place in Illinois, Highland’s city council meetings are taking place via conference call with members of the public and media permitted to listen in, and only the mayor and two others were physically present in the council chambers.

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On the agenda for April 6 was a proposal that would have repealed the earlier ordinance permitting cannabis dispensaries under certain restricted circumstances. The controversial ordinance was approved Nov. 4, but quickly met with backlash from members of the community, with multiple standing-room-only meetings and hours of public commentary. In December, the council voted to send the question to a referendum on the March 17 ballot.

The vote was 1,047 to 709 in opposition to permitting cannabis dispensaries in the city. However, the referendum was nonbinding, so it still falls to the city council to make the final decision.

Michaelis said the vote would be rescheduled after the state lifts the stay-at-home order and traditional meetings can resume for public commentary and debate.

In the meantime, the original ordinance stands. It treats marijuana similarly to alcohol and tobacco, requiring it cannot be smoked in public or sold to minors in accordance with state law.

It restricts the locations and hours that a dispensary can locate and limits the number of permits that may be granted. Each permit must be individually approved by the city council. As of last month, no requests for permits had been filed in Highland.

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