News - McHenry County

Woodstock decides against making it easier for marijuana dispensaries to open in town

Woodstock has approved three marijuana-based businesses in town, but none have opened so far and none are dispensaries

Woodstock City Council approved a special use permit for a marijuana business at 1411 S. Eastwood Drive, in Woodstock, which may help the business open up in town earlier than expected. The permit adjusts its operation to temporarily allow just transportation and infusion for up to two years at the site of the former Golf and Games.

Despite Woodstock opting to retain more control over marijuana dispensaries moving into town, city officials said they don’t think it will hurt the city’s chances to draw such businesses.

While the idea was to make Woodstock more attractive to such businesses by making it easier to open shop, many municipalities across the state maintain similar permitting requirements as Woodstock, Building and Zoning Director Joe Napolitano said Friday.

“We hope to make things as developer-friendly as possible,” Napolitano said. “I think we’re still on a fairly level playing field.”

The change would have allowed marijuana dispensaries to open like other businesses and avoid a two-month city approval process, City Manager Roscoe Stelford said at the City Council meeting last week.

Stelford said that the marijuana industry is legal and is “highly” regulated in Illinois, noting how hard it is to obtain a license for this type of business from the state. It’s also a “huge” revenue generator, he said.

“We have had several [dispensaries] looking in Woodstock,” Stelford said at the meeting. “None [have] yet to select us, but we felt this might help in that regard.”

Despite this, the City Council voted unanimously to keep the special-use permit requirement, with some council members saying they thought it was better to maintain control over those types of businesses, particularly in terms of where they set up.

“There is the potential for unknown things to come up that we can’t as a council think about,” Mayor Mike Turner said at the meeting. “I’d rather maintain a little oversight.”

Council member Wendy Piersall said she was “strongly” against the idea of permitting dispensaries in town without specific council approval.

Based on a map produced by Napolitano, dispensaries would be allowed to set up shop right off Woodstock’s historic Square, she said.

“I would really like for us to not take away these … requirements,” Piersall said. “I just really think this body should have a say if we want a dispensary within walking distance of our Square. I just feel very, very strongly about it.”

Since 2020, Woodstock has approved three marijuana-based businesses, two of which have yet to receive the required state licenses.

The third business, Six Labs Inc., plans to open at the old Golf and Games miniature golf site at 1411 S. Eastwood Drive. That business is seeking the trifecta – licenses for a dispensary, craft-growing, and infusion and transportation.

So far, it has obtained just the infusion and transportation licensing, Economic Development Director Garrett Anderson said Friday. At the city level, it has been approved for both craft-growing as well as infusion and transportation.

While it waits to hear back on the other two licenses, the business earlier this year requested permission to tweak its permit to allow it to open early. Although it was approved by the city, the business has yet to open, as it still is going through the building permit process, Napolitano said.

None of the three approved businesses have been for a dispensary, Napolitano said. Six Labs has pitched the idea in the past but would need to seek fresh city approval to add that aspect to its business.

The city also has noticed a decline in the number of calls for dispensaries interested in opening in town in recent months, Napolitano said. But any new ones that apply will need a special-use permit.

Council member Bob Seegers asked at last week’s meeting how much more time and money it costs to get a permit through the city. Napolitano said it takes about 60 days and an additional $5,000 to $10,000 in associated costs.

Seegers also asked whether the city could offer incentives to help offset those costs, which is allowed.

Council member Gordie Teebo agreed with the city keeping more control over these types of businesses.

“Maybe down the road we will [allow this], but I’d rather have control,” he said.