FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — The city council voted 7-3 Tuesday night to allow cannabis-related businesses to come to the city. Aldermen made the decision quickly with almost no debate on the issue.
Fairview Heights joins five other Metro East communities that will allow cannabis sales next year when recreational marijuana use for adults is legal.
In the end, the prospect of new tax revenue outweighed the concerns some aldermen had about cannabis.
“Personally, I’m not a fan of it,” said Ward II Alderman Anthony LeFlore. “It’s legal at the state level. You got an opportunity to earn some money for the city, so why not?”
LeFlore and fellow Ward II Alderman Ryan Vickers were two of the seven votes to allow sales.
“You looking at a city that, I wouldn’t say we’re suffering commercial-wise, but we’re looking at new ways to generate funds,” Vickers said. “One of those ways would be through dispensaries.”
The council also voted to establish a 3% sales tax on all recreational marijuana purchases in the city. This would be on top of state and county sales taxes.
The move by the city to allow and tax recreational cannabis sales could be a major financial boon for Fairview Heights, which already has a dispensary operator interested in coming to the city.
Collinsville currently has the only approved adult-use dispensary in the new year and expects to pull in between $1 million and $1.3 million a year just from sales taxes on recreational cannabis.
Fairview Heights would dedicate its tax revenue from recreational sales to three buckets. Half of it goes toward the city's police pension fund, a quarter goes to the city’s general fund and a quarter to paying off the new $21 million REC Center.
“If we’re going to have cannabis in the city, we want the money to go toward something,” Kupsky said. “The sooner we can pay down that debt down, the more benefit we can provide in terms of opportunities.”
City leaders' decision to allow sales also hinged on the statewide legality of cannabis.
“It’s already in the community; at least you know the quality and the substance is safe for recreational purposes,” Leflore said.
Fairview Heights would face many of the same challenges regardless of whether it allowed recreational sales or not, Mayor Mark Kupsy said.
“If local communities around us allow it, the same people will be traversing through our city to get to those [dispensary] locations because of our proximity to the interstate,” he said.
Voting to allow sales also gives the city more power to protect the community and ensure it remains a safe place to live, Kupsky said. The number and location of dispensaries in the community can be limited, he said.
“I don’t think a lot of these are going to pop up corner to corner, especially in the first year,” Vickers said. “We do want to look at where these things are going to be located in the town.”
The city still has to set zoning regulations before any business can come to Fairview Heights. There are some locations where Kupsky doesn’t want to see cannabis businesses open in the city.
“Nothing next to churches or schools or right next to residential areas,” he said. “We’ll look at our different zoning districts at what’s allowed and maybe some of the industrial districts.”
Those rules will likely be set in January, Kupsky said.
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