Southern Illinois municipalities differ on decision to sell marijuana in their town

Updated: Sep. 10, 2019 at 9:14 PM CDT
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ILLINOIS (KFVS) - In less than four months, recreational marijuana will be legal in the state of Illinois. As cities across the Heartland plan for next year, the city of Marion and Mt. Vernon got a jumpstart on their cities’ decision.

On Monday, the city of Marion’s City Council voted 4-1 to prohibit dispensaries that sell recreational marijuana within city limits. However, last month, the city of Mt. Vernon voted to have recreational marijuana businesses within the city.

Mt Vernon Mayor John Lewis said his city is on board. “You have two choices, opt-in or opt-out. We opted in," he said. “You’re not stopping anything. I cannot see where opting out does anything.”

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker legalized marijuana in the state of Illinois in June 2019, leading city to establish their laws before the state law takes effect on January 1, 2020.

Marion Mayor Mike Absher said people are passionate on both sides of this argument, however, he stands by what he calls a rule for the county.

“My understanding is that the county of Williamson, our county itself is only going to get one license,” he said. “The way that the law is written, is that any existing medical-use dispensary if they apply for the retail license they are going to have dibs on it.”

Absher says they believe that one license will go to Harbory, a medicinal marijuana facility located outside the Marion city limits.

“Why go down that entire path when the reality is we were not going to get a license anyway. It just doesn’t make any sense," Absher said.

Up Interstate 57, the City of Mt Vernon city leaders believe they should have a dispensary within the city.

Lewis calls himself a pragmatist. "[Marijuana] is already’s where society is going, I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing, I just need to play on the playing field I’ve got,” he said.

While Absher said he wants to focus on items that bring jobs. "Who knows what the future holds, you have to be ready, able and willing to adapt as this circumstance changes, just as anything else economically.”

On the other hand, Lewis believes the dispensary will bring jobs, “We will take any kind of jobs they will bring to an investment in our city. I don’t care if they are low paying, medium paying or high paying jobs, we want them all.”

The city of Murphysboro has voted to not allow the sale of adult-use cannabis in city limits. All aldermen were present for the vote, which was a 6-5 decision. Mayor Will Stephen was the deciding vote for the measure.

According to Stephen, he cast his vote because he would prefer to see what challenges other communities in our area face with the issue before leaping into allowing the sale.

Stephens also suggested an advisory question on the spring 2020 ballot, asking voters how they feel about the matter. This is meant to garner the consensus of the people of Murphysboro.

The city of Carbondale plans to discuss marijuana dispensaries on their September 24th meeting.

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