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Mt. Morris Village Board ‘opts out’ of cannabis businesses

‘It's not an absolute no. It's a no right now.’

Mt. Morris Village Trustee Philip Labash participates in a meeting on Feb. 25.
Mt. Morris Village Trustee Philip Labash participates in a meeting on Feb. 25.

The Mt. Morris Village Board has opted out of having cannabis businesses within the village limits. 

The board unanimously directed its attorney to draw up an ordinance prohibiting all five types of cannabis businesses that licenses can be obtained for in Illinois — dispensaries, craft grow, infusion, transportation and cultivation. 

"I think we need to take action and I think we need to take action tonight,” Village Trustee Phil Labash said. “I'd like to make a motion to opt out of it. The whole nine yards."

The village held a public meeting on the topic on Dec. 11 where close to 25 people attended and voiced their opinions for and against cannabis in town and asked questions about it.

Oregon approved a zoning ordinance in November by a vote of 3-2 to allow cannabis businesses in town. Polo and Forreston have both passed ordinances prohibiting cannabis businesses. 

"Most municipalities have made a decision one way or another,” Labash said. “We're one of the few in this area that has made no decision. The longer we sit here with no decision, the more exposed we are to something happening within the village that we wouldn't want or sanction."

After recreational cannabis became legal Jan. 1, a cannabis business could have legally come into Mt. Morris. Now, village officials say Mt. Morris is more protected and they will have more time to observe other communities that allow it and to better plan for it if they do decide to opt back in and allow cannabis businesses in the future.

Labash said he’s seen the long lines and parking issues at the recently opened dispensaries in Rockford and said he wouldn’t want those types of problems in Mt. Morris. 

The way a community like Mt. Morris opts out of allowing the businesses is by declaring them a “nuisance business” and passing an ordinance saying they’re not allowed in town. To opt back in, Mt. Morris would have to pass another ordinance declassifying the businesses as nuisances, Village Attorney Rob LeSage said. 

"You are only empowered to decide which types of cannabis businesses you want in your business if any and where you allow them with zoning,” LeSage said. “The rest will be in line with state laws."

Labash said that he is interested in the non-dispensary types of businesses possibly coming to town and the jobs and tax money that they could bring. 

Village Trustee Mike Fay was glad the board decided to bring a level of protection to the village. He said he’s seen how well dispensaries have done with revenue and anticipates the state will soon allow more licenses, making them more available to places like Mt. Morris.

"Eventually I think we will have to come back in," Fay said. 

"It's not an absolute no,” Labash said. “It's a no right now."

Brush pickup

Mt. Morris’ contracted garbage haulers, Northern Illinois Disposal, will start brush pickup at the curb beginning April 1.