There is no dearth of opinions for East Peoria city commissioners to weigh as they decide whether to allow the sale of recreational cannabis next year.
The city council held a public forum on the issue on Tuesday evening. Residents fell on both sides of the issue. Some called for East Peoria to follow Morton and El Paso in banning recreational cannabis sales within its borders, while others said it presents an opportunity to create new jobs and tax revenue.
Medical cannabis dispensary NuMed operates in East Peoria. It already meets the requirements the city says it would set for a recreational dispensary, and it would have a leg up in the state application process since it's already selling cannabis.
The city's five commissioners asked questions, but largely refrained from showing how they personally feel about the issue. Commissioner Mike Sutherland was the exception.
"I've got a few dozen friends that aren't here today because of drugs. One thing that cannabis has never killed anybody that I know of, using cannabis. But I've never known of anybody who died of drugs unless they didn't start by using cannabis," he said.
But resident Daniel Atherton disagreed. He says he has used cannabis for decades and wants to be able to use it within the comfort of his own home without worrying about breaking the law.
"The reefer madness; it needs to stop. We're peaceful. I run a business with my brothers. I did a lot of work for East Peoria for 27 years. I've been very successful at it. And I've hid it from you for 40 years. I'm tired of hiding."
Atherton said he sent four kids off to college in a house where cannabis was around. But he said he lost a nephew to alcohol.
Mayor John Kahl says the city council will likely vote on recreational cannabis sales next month.