On Sept. 30, 2019, Decatur City Council held a special meeting to decide between opting out or opting in on allowing cannabis dispensaries in city limits.
The Council was supposed to vote on three questions: Should marijuana retail dispensaries be permitted in the city of Decatur? Should various marijuana processing facilities be permitted in the city of Decatur? What ordinance restrictions should be placed on the open consumption/use of marijuana?
Over 30 concerned citizens came to voice their opinion on the distribution of cannabis in Decatur, the majority urging Council members to vote on opting in. Each speaker was allowed three minutes to express their views.
The ages and backgrounds of each citizen varied. A few of the citizens who spoke for opting in were in their late teens or early twenties, but many people were middle-aged. There were even a few voices from the elderly who spoke for opting in and why it would benefit the city of Decatur.
Most of the people who spoke for opting out were elderly members of the community.
City Council member Bill Faber motioned for a referendum, which would allow the citizens of Decatur themselves to vote on the matter in the next election.
Council members David Horn, Rodney Walker, and Bill Faber voted in favor of a referendum. Council members Pat McDaniel, Lisa Gregory, Chuck Kuhle and Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe voted against the referendum.
Councilman Rodney Walker stated that it “should be up to you guys,” but the referendum failed to pass.
After this vote, the Council proceeded to vote on opting out. All Council members except for David Horn voted to opt out. The Council seemed adamant about waiting to see how surrounding cities that vote to opt in will do.
Councilman Kuhle compared the tax revenue Decatur could receive from cannabis sales to the amount of money Howard Buffett donates to the town, which made several citizens skeptical of the Council’s motives.
The Council then discussed whether cannabis processing facilities should be permitted in the city of Decatur. Horn strongly recommend that the Council vote to allow for processing facilities to be in Decatur. It would be an excellent way to open new jobs for the community.
Kuhle expressed his concerns and urged the council to once again follow a wait-and-see approach.
The Council voted against allowing processing facilities in city limits. Councilmen Horn, Walker and Faber all voted in favor. McDaniel, Gregory, Kuhle and Wolfe voted against.
Wolfe was the deciding vote in both the referendum vote and allowing for processing facilities in the city of Decatur.
After approximately four hours, the third and final topic was discussed and tabled for a later date. Deciding what “ordinance restrictions should be placed on the open consumption/use of marijuana” is something that Council members needed time to investigate and research.
This topic is very broad, and Council members want to consider it carefully so that citizens and police are both protected with clear laws on cannabis consumption.
Jasmin Coronel, a Millikin student who attended the City Council meeting, was in favor of making sure that the ordinances are clear.
“It’s good because it protects the constituents,” Coronel said. “I think a vague ordinance will give the police more power, and I think we have to think more carefully about how much power we give the police because if we don’t set guidelines, they are likely to abuse that power.”
Coronel also supported the Council’s decision to table the vote.
“It was important for the Council to table that decision so they can have time to deliberate and think about what their constituents said instead of immediately voting,” Coronel said.