Across the state, municipalities are making the final decision on whether they’ll allow marijuana retailers to open shop inside their borders once recreational use and sales become legal.
Adult recreational use cannabis becomes legal in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020.
In Morris, members of the city council have yet to hold any discussion on the issue, let alone bring the issue up for a vote.
But that isn’t stopping members of the public from coming forward and pleading their cases both for and against allowing sales in town.
Last week, Morris pastor Rick Barnard approached the council for the second time in the past two months, imploring the members to vote against allowing the sale of recreational cannabis within the city limits.
„The idea that anyone would make it easier for kids to get addicted to pot is hard for me to fathom,” he said. „People are going to say, well, they are going to get it somewhere anyway, so why not get the 3% tax. But I ask you, what is the value of human life? Is the value of a human life worth the 3% tax? What is the possibility, maybe even the probability, that one life will be saved if we do not start selling recreational marijuana here? I think there’s a very high probability.”
Barnard also argued that rejecting the legal sale of cannabis in Morris could inspire youth to rethink possible use of pot.
But Barnard, who was there with support from a handful of other local religious leaders, faced some push back from other residents who see the issue differently.
Morris resident Stephanie Schwab approached the council with a different take. Schwab, who said she suffers from anxiety and PTSD from a childhood trauma, as well as a fibromyalgia, said that she’s been using a prescription for medical marijuana. She said it’s been life-changing, impacting her life in a positive way.
„Despite my appearance and my active part in our community, I have many unseen illnesses,” Schwab said.
Schwab said medical marijuana, which she takes by way of vape pens and occasionally edibles, has helped her to drastically reduce the amount of prescription pills she needs to take on a daily basis. She said she believes many people who would opt for recreational cannabis would be able to reduce their own reliance on prescription drugs for pain or anxiety issues.
„I feel that if I had cannabis made available to me when I needed it, I wouldn’t have been living in such pain mentally and physically for so long,” Schwab told members of the council, adding that she had relied on prescription pills for pain relief for more than four years before receiving her medical marijuana card.
Schwab also said that her cost of medical cannabis is much lower than she was paying for prescription pills, but noted that cost will vary for those who use the recreational option.
„I feel that if we were to deny people the use of recreational marijuana, those are the same people who might be like I was for four years, then we might as well deny people the use of Tylenol and Motrin,” she said. „The mistake that many of us are guilty of is called stereotyping. I ask you all, rather than assume the people looking for recreational marijuana use in Morris or Grundy County come next year are looking to get high, [they might be] people looking to get relief from illnesses that you can’t see.”
Two additional residents stood to speak in favor of recreational cannabis, while one additional attendee at the meeting spoke up against allowing sales in the city limits.
Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick has previously noted that the issue is expected to pass through multiple committees before coming to the city council for approval sometime before the end of the year.
In September, the council unanimously approved a 3% tax on the gross receipts of recreational cannabis sold within the city limits should sales eventually be approved.
The 3% local sales tax is the highest allowed by the state. The ordinance would take effect on Jan. 1 when the law goes into effect.
Local taxing bodies were required by the new law to adopt a local tax ordinance by Sept. 30 in order to be able to collect that tax come January 2020.