There is considerable pressure on Peoria city council members to decide where the city will stand on recreational cannabis sales and cultivation sooner rather than later.
Like other local governments throughout the state, Peoria is deliberating whether to allow the sale and cultivation of recreational marijuana within the city's borders. Possession of up to 30 grams and usage in most private spaces becomes legal in Illinois on January 1.
Residents, business members, city staff, and councilmembers alike agreed during a special meeting Saturday that decisions need to be made by the end of the year.
State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) was at the meeting. She was one of the cannabis bill's main backers. She said recreational cannabis legalization presents an "unprecedented" opportunity for Illinois and Peoria.
"We know that this isn't for everybody, but it's here, and it's legal. And it's not gonna go anywhere. So we want folks to be able to look at this in a way that it's an opportunity," Gordon-Booth said.
She specifically mentioned the new Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) Program funded by legalization. It is expected to generate $125 million in 2020 to go towards communities she says were disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs, such as Peoria's 61605 ZIP code.
Medical cannabis dispensary Trinity Compassionate Care Center projects $10 million dollars in profits on recreational cannabis next year if the city moves forward with allowing sales. The city's sales tax cut of that money would be about $575 ,000. About 20 new jobs would be created if recreational sales are allowed.
Trinity Compassionate Care is the city's only medical cannabis dispensary, and one of just 55 statewide. If the city council approves recreational sales within its boundaries, Trinity would have a first shot at one of 75 available recreational dispensary licenses next year, when possession and usage of cannabis are legalized under a new state law.
"From a business perspective, [we] have to make decisions, and we have to make them quickly. We'd like to be open January 1st here in Peoria. We understand the timelines are tight. We're looking for maybe special use where we are now," said Trinity co-owner Ron DeGiacomo.
Trinity is at 3125 N. University, in the midst of a commercial strip just south of War Memorial Drive. Second District Councilman Chuck Grayeb brought up the possibility of keeping recreational cannabis sales confined to an industrial part of the city through zoning, but DeGiacomo says Trinity's state medicinal license binds them to their current location.
DeGiacomo said the new law requires Trinity to contribute about $300,000 to social equity programs next year. He said they have the option of depositing that money in a state fund, or working instead with the city of Peoria to find ways to spend that locally, such as community college programs.
The public input offered Saturday was exclusively in favor of allowing recreational cannabis sales within the city, with varying support for degrees of regulation. Several of the speakers were employees of Trinity Compassionate Care Center who said medical marijuana has made positive impacts in their lives.
No councilmember explicitly stated their position on what they believe cannabis policy should be, with the exception of at-large Councilmember Beth Jensen, who said she was in favor of sales with some restrictions. At-large Councilmember Dr. Rita Ali requested a supplementary presentation for the city council to provide more background information.
No vote was taken during Saturday's policy session. Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said he hopes to hold three more public input hearings on recreational cannabis policy in the northern, central and southern portions of the city by early October at the latest.