Herald-Whig

Adams County Board to vote next month on cannabis dispensaries

Adams County Board member Bret Austin, chairman of the Finance Committee, talks with reporters Tuesday about the board’s pending vote on whether to allow adult-use cannabis dispensaries in the county. H-W Photo/Edward Husar
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 10, 2019 12:01 am

QUINCY -- The Adams County Board is expected to vote next month on whether to allow adult-use cannabis dispensaries in Adams County.

The Illinois Legislature last month passed a law legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana starting Jan. 1, 2020, but the law allows counties to opt out of allowing dispensaries to open within their jurisdictions.

Bret Austin, chairman of the County Board's Finance Committee, went on record Tuesday night saying he hopes the County Board will allow dispensaries to operate locally. He said doing so would put the county in position to receive a cut of all sales taxes collected on future sales of adult-use cannabis.

"Why put ourselves at a financial disadvantage?" he said.

Under the new state law, the maximum sales tax that could be charged on sales at adult-use dispensaries would be 3.75%. Austin said Adams County would receive the full amount of tax revenue from any dispensary operating in an unincorporated area of the county. If the dispensary was located inside the city limits of a home-rule city, such as Quincy, the city would receive 3% while the county would receive .75%.

Austin said the Quincy City Council also will have the opportunity to vote this year on whether to allow adult-use cannabis dispensaries to operate within the city limits.

"We already have a medical cannabis dispensary inside the city limits of Quincy, so I would assume they (council members) would probably go forward with it," Austin said.

In an interview after Tuesday night's Adams County Board meeting, Austin said the board technically has until the end of this year to decide whether to opt out of allowing adult-use cannabis sales, but county officials want to take action quickly.

"We wanted to put that out there as early as we could because people who will be planning dispensaries should probably have as much head's up as they can," he said.

Austin said he wanted to make sure the public understands that the County Board will not be voting on "legalizing" marijuana sales because that issue has already been decided by the Illinois Legislature.

"It's legal as of 1/1/20," he said. "It's just whether you want to participate in the dispensary program."

Austin said he's not sure how the County Board will vote on the matter.

"We have a very conservative County Board," he said.

"My hope is that Adams County will not necessarily embrace cannabis but that we will participate in the dispensary program because it makes sense as a statewide program that we shouldn't except ourselves from it."

Les Post, chairman of the County Board's Executive Committee, said the committee recently discussed the cannabis issue "and how to ensure that Adams County remains a drug-free workplace."

Austin told reporters after the meeting that even though adult-use cannabis has been legalized in Illinois, "we will not allow employees of the county to be under the influence of cannabis when they are at work."

In other action Tuesday, the County Board conducted an after-the-fact public hearing on the board's decision last month to approve $4 million in general obligation bonds to help finance the construction of the new Adams County Jail. No one spoke at the hearing.

The jail project is moving along at a steady pace. Mark Peter, chairman of the Jail Subcommittee, said 75$ of the wing that will house the Quincy Police Department and the Adams County Sheriff's Department has been completed, and the rest of that wing should be done by the end of September.

"There is still much work to be done" in the cell block areas that will house prisoners, Peter said.

The board approved a request from the village of Clayton for a permit to discharge fireworks Aug. 10 during the Adams-Brown County Old Settlers Days.

The board approved the reappointments of Richard Wright and Ann Reich to three-year terms and Mark Peter to a one-year term on the Adams County Health Department's governing board.