City Council of Champaign approves new ordinances on cannabis, tobacco, and vaping
The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act also known as CRTA, will become effective on January 1, 2020. This allows for personal possession and recreational use of marijuana. Citizens that are planning on partaking should be aware of the changes to the city’s ordinances to make sure that they are doing so in a lawful manner.

The Champaign City Council met Tuesday for a study session. Assistant city attorney Kathryn Cataldo presented a study for the council that proposed the council to prepare ordinances that reflect recent changes to state law regarding cannabis, tobacco, and vaping. 

According to Cataldo’s report, ordinances are a civil, fine-only tool that allows law enforcement to address unlawful behavior in a non-criminal way, without involving the criminal justice system or a criminal record. Without the ordinance option, the only option is state offense, arrest, and prosecution.

Cataldo explained the required ordinance changes that will reflect the new law. Adults over the age of 21 and over are allowed to possess up to 1 ounce, or a product containing 500mg of THC or less. It is still considered unlawful under state law to possess more. 

As for cannabis paraphernalia, items used to ingest cannabis is allowed. It will still be unlawful to have all other drug paraphernalia. Cataldo says, “Our discussions with law enforcement indicated that police officers are able to readily distinguish what is used to consume cannabis versus some harder drugs that would be on the street.”

Citations for cannabis has greatly decreased since 2015. This year, police issued 42 citations for possession of cannabis and 17 for cannabis paraphernalia. There has been a total of 857 citations so far this year.

Cataldo proposed fines for cannabis violations that will mirror fines for alcohol. “There are a lot of similarities between what is unlawful CRTA and what is unlawful for alcohol.” she says. 

The state is creating a $30 million low interest loan program to reduce barriers to entry in the cannabis business industry. Applicants for state licenses who live in a “disproportionately area” or individuals with criminal convictions for cannabis-related offenses can be qualified as a social equity applicant. 50 out of 250 possible points are awarded to these applicants for dispensary licenses.

In regards to tobacco and vaping, the city’s existing ordinance is proposed to amend to include the new state law that makes it unlawful to possess or sell tobacco and vaping products to persons under 21. Council member Bruno suggested that nicotine in general should be prohibited rather than the devices. “If that’s the evil we are trying to prohibit, may we shouldn’t be so specific on the methodology.” he says.

In closing comments, council member Bruno added, “I think we’re all in for a learning experience to see whether this is impactful or not impactful at all. I don’t want to see us overly agonized about what exact regulations we need to have in place because I don’t think this is going to cause any great problems to our functionality as a healthy community.”

The council voted 9-0 on the proposal to prepare the ordinances and continued with their next study that proposed whether or not to increase the number of terminals in video gaming businesses.

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