By SAMANTHA PIDDE

With Illinois' legalization of adult-use recreational marijuana beginning Jan. 1, area public officials continue to work on how to address potential cannabis-related businesses in Carroll County.

After discussing possible cannabis businesses for more than a month, the Mount Carroll City Council approved two ordinances at its Thursday, Dec. 19, meeting.

The first ordinance essentially "opts in" the city to allowing cannabis-related businesses. It does establish that such businesses must not be within 300 feet of any pre-existing public or private nursery schools; preschools; primary or secondary schools; day care center; day care homes or residential care homes; property zoned or used for residential purposes.

This distance was originally 1,500 feet in the draft presented at the Dec. 10 meeting. However, Mayor Carl Bates, City Attorney Ron Coplan and council members agreed that in a smaller community, this distance could prevent any development.

The council also adopted an ordinance establishing 3 percent Cannabis Retailer's Occupation Tax.

Both of the ordinances were approved unanimously, with no additional discussion. At this point, the city has not set any zoning on which types of cannabis-related businesses will be allowed in specific areas in the city.

Earlier Thursday, Dec. 19, the Carroll County Board discussed potential zoning for these types of businesses.

Zoning Administrator Jeremy Hughes presented a report to the board from the Dec. 2 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting where a possible ordinance for cannabis-related businesses was discussed.

Hughes said three options were examined at that meeting: regulate all categories of this type of businesses by special use permit; regulate them by a conditional license, similar to a liquor license; opt out and prohibit cannabis-related businesses in the unincorporated areas of the county.

Hughes said the ZBA recommended option one, utilizing special use permits, with the possibility of prohibiting locations of onsite consumption or retail.

"It certainly gives you a lot more options and a lot more involvement makes it into the public," said Hughes, about using special use permits for the businesses.

Hughes added that the special use permit process slows things down, giving people a chance to comment during public meetings on the potential business.

He said the board could establish setback (approved distances) from churches, schools, parks and other such locations. He emphasized that any restrictions designated as part of the special use permit would need to be followed by the businesses.

The board agreed that the special use permit format would be the best for cannabis-related businesses in unincorporated portions of the county. Hughes said they have no way of knowing if anyone will want to place such a business in these portions of the county.

"Who knows, that's why we're here," Hughes said.

The ZBA will continue discussion on the matter at its next meeting on Jan. 6, with the hope of approving a draft ordinance to present to the county board next month.

The county board also briefly discussed the creation of a zero-tolerance policy for county employees related to cannabis. The county currently has a policy prohibiting the use of alcohol at work.

"I think the cannabis is going to be a little more tricky," County Administrator Mike Doty said.

He explained that marijuana can "linger" in a person's system for a month or so, noting most drug tests are not sensitive enough to exactly pinpoint when cannabis was consumed.

Doty said the county has already been told by its insurance carrier that they will not be able to drug test for marijuana for pre-employment as part of the interview process anymore.

The board is waiting for a formal opinion from the state's attorney and will discuss the matter more in January.