Yes To Cannabis: East Peoria Votes To Allow Recreational Pot Sales

Sep 17, 2019

The East Peoria City Council rolled out the welcome mat for recreational cannabis Tuesday.

On four to one vote margins, the council approved zoning regulations for cannabis businesses, a three percent sales tax on recreational sales, and brought city code into sync with the state's new legalization law.

The ordinance would allow up to three recreational dispensaries, one cultivation facility, one craft grower, one infuser, one processing center, and three cannabis transporting groups within city limits. All of the facilities would be zoned in industrial areas away from schools, daycares, and residential care homes.

Commissioner Seth Mingus said he would vote yes because alternative revenue sources like the Par-A-Dice riverboat casino have benefited East Peoria before, and he thinks they will again.

"I remember I was younger when the boat came here, and there were a lot of people that were concerned about that," he said. "Concerned about crime or concerned about what that might bring. And some of the concerns I've heard about recreational marijuana are the same as that. A hundred million dollars later, we still have the boat."

He says the city stands to make money it can put to good use on other projects.

Mayor John Kahl also voted in the affirmative. He said legal cannabis will be here next year, and the city shouldn't turn down the tax money it will need to enforce the new law.

"It's very easy. I have a personal opinion, and then I have a job as mayor. And at the end of the day, we have responsibilities we have to look out for," Kahl said. "Whether people accept it or not, it's going to be here, and we're going to be dealing with it, one way or the other."

Commissioner Mike Sutherland was the only one to vote against the ordinances. He objected to the argument made by other councilmembers that East Peoria should take advantage of the new revenue, regardless of what their personal feelings may be on cannabis. 

"I can't support this. If that's our theory that it's legal in this state, then let's have a strip club. Let's just bring it on into East Peoria. If that's the theory of why we're doing things or not doing things, and it's the money grab," he said.

NuMed is a medical cannabis dispensary already located in East Peoria. The council's votes clear the way for the business to apply for a state recreational license. East Peoria's ordinance would bar usage of cannabis on the site of sales.

East Peoria is the only city in the Tri-County area to take an affirmative vote towards cannabis sales, so far. The city of Peoria is still debating its policy, with a vote on a cannabis sales tax set for next Tuesday.

To the west, Canton and Galesburg also gave the green light to cannabis sales. Canton's Salveo Health and Wellness is already state-approved to begin recreational sales next year.

Possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis becomes legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020 for people age 21 and older.