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City council gets ready for new law legalizing cannabis

In preparation for a new state law, Oregon City Council members got an idea what 30 grams of cannabis looks like last week.

Mayor Ken Williams passed around a plastic sandwich bag July 23 filled with leaves from a bush growing wild behind the city hall.

He said he had asked Police Chief Darin DeHaan to prepare the bag of leaves to show commissioners and those attending the meeting what the legal limit will look like.

The Illinois General Assembly recently passed, and Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed, a law that will allow Illinoisans who are 21 or older to legally possess 30 grams (about one ounce) of cannabis for recreational use. The law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

Williams told the council he wants them to begin working immediately on city ordinances governing cannabis use and sales so that they will be in place when the new state law kicks in.

He asked the council to consider where and when recreational cannabis use will be allowed, and if cannabis-based businesses will be allowed in the city, and if so, where and which types.

“We want public input on this,” Williams said.

Cannabis sales could bring an estimated $30,000 annually into city coffers, he said.

Medical marijuana dispensaries will be the only legal sellers of marijuana for recreational use at first, but by mid-2020, the state is expected grant additional licenses to new stores, processors, cultivators, and transporters.

The state law will make it legal to smoke in one’s own home and on-site in some cannabis-related businesses.

However, use will be prohibited in any public place, such as streets or parks; in motor vehicles; on school grounds, with the exception of medical users; near someone under the age of 21; and near an on-duty school bus driver, police officer, firefighter, or corrections officer.

In another matter, the council approved splitting the cost of a quarter-million dollar street sweeper between two funds.

Finance Commissioner Terry Schuster recommended equally dividing the $246,000 for a new Elgin sweeper between the Street Bridge Fund and the Water & Sewer Fund.

“Both those funds have a healthy balance in savings,” he said.

Schuster said that while the sweeper appears to be a Street Department purchase, funds for it can be taken from the Water & Sewer Fund because the sweeper keeps debris from entering storm sewers.

Williams said the purchase was budgeted and will not increase property taxes or water rates.

The council approved the purchase from Standard Equipment, Aurora, on July 9.

Schuster said the new sweeper will be delivered in late October. Until then the old one will be used.

In other business, DeHaan said the police department is seeking a replacement for officer Steve Mattas, who resigned effective July 26 to take a position with the St. Charles Police Department.

“We can’t compete with what they pay,” DeHaan said.