The Mayor of Decatur has declared she will wait several years before deciding whether to permit recreational cannabis sales in the city.
Illinois legalized adult-use marijuana on Jan. 1 and more than 40 medical cannabis dispensaries immediately began selling it for recreational purposes. Sales across the state reached $3.2 million on the first day of trading, with 77,128 transactions taking place after long queues snaked around corners outside the stores.
The state has left it up to individual cities, towns, villages and municipalities to decide if they will allow recreational marijuana sales, and dozens have opted out. It is not as extreme as Michigan, where more than 1,400 of the 1,800 communities have decided against permitting marijuana sales after being given the choice, but it still means that millions of Illinoisans will not have a local dispensary.
NBC5 Chicago has compiled a list of 94 that have opted out, but the list has grown since then and it includes Decatur. The city has a population of around 72,000 and its politicians have taken the decision to outlaw recreational marijuana sales.
Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe said the city has just opened a new $60 million crisis campus to deal with the opioid crisis and it is uneasy about cannabis. “It’s kind of counter-intuitive to say, okay, we have this wonderful facility to deal with drug addiction, on one hand, and on the other say, oh, here, come buy your marijuana downtown,” said Wolfe.
Decatur is a strong example of the challenges the legal marijuana industry faces in flourishing in both Illinois and Michigan. Many cities and townships have decided to sit and wait while allowing other areas to be the guinea pigs.
Wolfe said city officials may reconsider their position, but only in a few years, depending on the results in municipalities that permit sales.
Legalization advocates have managed to place a referendum on the March primary ballot, asking: “Should the city of Decatur allow the sale of recreational cannabis and cannabis-infused products to adults 21 and over?”
However, the referendum is non-binding, and Wolfe said she would have no problem ignoring the result. She pointed out that the referendum only covers the Township of Decatur, which accounts for around 50,000 people, and not the whole city.
Last fall the Decatur City Council voted down proposals for a referendum covering the entire city. Wolfe said she was elected to lead the community and that the council will make decisions it believes to be in the best interests of residents, without needing to consult them.
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