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Public weighs in on limits for Peoria cannabis dispensaries

Robert Lawon
Wikimedia Commons

Should the city limit the amount of dispensaries in Peoria? Should further zoning regulations and distance limitations for dispensaries be put into place? Citizens showed up to two public input meetings this week to voice their opinions on these questions.

Donny Henry, Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Peoria County and a commissioner on Peoria’s Racial Justice and Equity Commission, argued that city policies should be made on the basis of individual rights and freedom.

“In a free society, we have the liberty to live the way we see fit as long as what we do doesn’t affect the right of another to do the same,” he said. “When one of the fastest growing industries comes to our door, we want to say ‘get lost’? We should be embracing cannabis, we should be welcoming the industry no different than Bloomington-Normal welcomed Rivian.”

One citizen remarked on how the city’s current policies treat cannabis.

“Alcohol and tobacco are both worse [for one’s health] than marijuana is, yet cannabis is treated as if it’s worse than them,” he said in regard to the city’s zoning regulations. “As for the number of dispensaries, we have a dozen liquor stores. There should not be a cap [on dispensaries] considering we easily have twelve liquor stories and only two dispensaries,” he said.

Current zoning regulations require that businesses selling alcohol be at least 100 feet away from a church or school. Those selling tobacco be at least 350 feet away, and cannabis dispensaries be at least 500 feet away.

The Council will also be looking at whether they should allow onsite consumption facilities and address social equity. Since 2019, the issue of whether to allow onsite consumption has been put on hold. When recreational cannabis was legalized in 2020, the Council felt that there was still too little information about the effects that legalization would have on communities to make a decision.

In 2019, the state of Illinois adopted the Illinois Cannabis Social Equity Act, which allows for communities that have been disproportionately affected by drugs an opportunity to benefit from the now-legal sale of cannabis. The question the Council is facing is whether the city should replicate this.

This would look like incentives such as providing discounts on licenses to open dispensaries in lower-income parts of Peoria.

“As a member of the Racial Justice and Equity Commission, I believe we have an obligation to make good on what the war on drugs has done to the most vulnerable in our community. Creating more barriers to entry for entrepreneurs is not how we accomplish that,” Henry said.

For those unable to come to either meeting, an online survey open to the public was made available to gather as much feedback as possible. Mayor Rita Ali stressed the importance that people share the survey as much as they can to neighbors, friends, and co-workers in the community.

Comments made by members of the public during the two meetings, as well as through the online survey, will be compiled into a report and presented to the Council to help guide further decision-making.

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