RANTOUL — Don’t allow recreational cannabis sales in Rantoul.
That’s the majority opinion of residents who spoke on the subject at Tuesday’s village board study session.
Eight of the 11 speakers said the village should not allow the sale of cannabis in town, two said it should be allowed, and one was neutral but said many of the comments were outdated.
Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said the village board, Mayor Chuck Smith and village staff are not advocating one way or another on the sales issue.
“The purpose behind the discussion was to allow the public to speak before the village brings forth any proposal on the cannabis law,” Eisenhauer said.
The village is able to adopt a 3 percent tax on its sale.
Eisenhauer said there will be three areas of discussion between now and Dec. 31:
— Whether to allow cannabis sales or a cultivation facility in town.
— Whether to allow at least the submittal of proposals for a cannabis dispensary license.
— Adoption of rules and regulations as it relates to cannabis in the community. For example, state statute exempts the upholding of the Illinois Clear-Air Act that bars smoking in public places — “meaning if there is no action by this body, beginning Jan. 1, people could go into a restaurant or a place of business” and smoke cannabis. The village board will have the opportunity to prohibit that if it desires.
Eisenhauer said the village board won’t discuss the cannabis issue until October.
He encouraged the public to attend the board’s October study session (Oct. 1) or monthly meeting (Oct. 8), where the village “will provide a great deal more information.”
Eisenhauer said the public can also email him their comments on the cannabis issues.
A summation of public comments follows:
Jean Wilson said there is already alcohol and drug abuse in town.
“The sales of legalized marijuana will put an added strain on our schools,” Wilson said, adding that every week in the Rantoul Press there are “three or four domestic-violence reports.”
“Families argue how the paycheck is being spent,” and feeding their addiction is placed ahead of providing for every-day necessities, causing children to suffer, overtaxing schools and police.
Wilson said some people might say cannabis users will just go elsewhere to buy.
“So be it,” she said, “but we don’t have to be the enabler.”
Thomas Ordal said he is “dead set against” the sale of cannabis in Rantoul.
Ordal said it is highly unlikely if allowed that Rantoul would see a dispensary in town within a year because it takes “half a million dollars to a million” to put one in.
Ordal’s main concern is young people who have easy access to cannabis.
He said since Colorado allowed recreational cannabis sales, it has seen “an incredible increase in the number of traffic accidents and episodes of violence” due to its legalization.
Ordal said it appears Colorado will require three times the number of dispensaries above what it has now.
“It will cause real problems in the schools,” he said. “We need to educate our young people first to stay away from this stuff.”
Doug Rokke said he is in “complete opposition” to cannabis sales in Rantoul.
He said he was one of the original EMTs in the community and also frequently saw the “incredible drug problems” at the University of Illinois. “It was a nightmare,” he said.
Rokke said as a substitute teacher he has seen the problems in schools caused by cannabis.
He said people say marijuana is good for people with certain medical conditions.
“The only reason is it disables your oxygen profusion to the cells and messes up your food intake so you don’t have any senses,” Rokke said. “Too many parents are not teaching their kids what is good and what is bad. If we don’t stop it here, it’s going to get worse and worse.”
Susan Quinlan said she had spent the previous couple of weeks reading about the positives and negatives of cannabis. In Colorado, she said, the only positive is “the money.”
“Do you really need to shop Rantoul first and pull off (Interstate) 57 and buy your marijuana?”
She said the money is not made off the social user.
“It’s the heavy users, and the heavy users usually go to more heavy stuff.”
As as a nurse, Quinlan said she knows the many dangers of cannabis use: “The harder drugs, the eatables taken by children, the increase in homelessness, absenteeism in schools, the strain and drain of social services.
“We didn’t have a vote in Illinois of whether we wanted marijuana, which most all states did ..., but lets let the citizens of Illinois know that we care about our town and we don’t want it sold in our town.”
She said Illinois’ cannabis law is the loosest one in the country.
“Let someone else make their money off marijuana. Keep us proud. We want this town to shine again.”
Dan Davis said Paxton has “already passed it. Urbana’s already got a shop running.”
“I don’t drink or smoke or use any drugs,” Davis said. “Why are we sending (potential customers) to other towns 10 miles in either direction to spend their money? And while they’re there,” they’re spending it at other businesses.
“You’re not going to keep it out of town. That’s why we have the Shop Rantoul First to spend their money here first.”
The Paxton City Council has approved a 3 percent tax on cannabis sales if any dispensaries locate in the community.
No decision has been made to opt out of allowing sales. If no opt-out decision is made, a municipality must allow a cannabis business.
In Urbana, the shop Davis mentioned is Nu Med — a medical dispensary that plans to add recreational marijuana. The Urbana City Council has approved a 3 percent sales tax as well.
Sheila Sherman, who is a nurse, said she has seen what cannabis does to people.
“Why would you want your village to be proud of selling marijuana?” Sherman said.
“We need to really think very hard, ‘Is this something we want to do?’ Let them go to Paxton. We want the village to be proud of what we do, and that’s not selling marijuana.”
Sister Paulette Joerger spoke out against recreational cannabis sales.
She quoted Kevin Sabet, a co-founder of the nonprofit organization, Smart Approaches to Marijuana who said, “The legal consequences of legalized marijuana are far-reaching and will have devastating impacts on citizens, communities and youth.
“It won’t bring in the revenue promised while ushering in new costly regulatory burdens, more hospitalizations, increased drugged-driving incidents and unregulated highly potent pot products.”
“Do you really want that,” Joerger asked.
Donald Robinson said what he is hearing from the speakers is they are not talking about cannabis but about drugs such as cocaine and meth.
“I know people that smoke marijuana,” Robinson said. “I never saw them do any of the crazy things people are speaking on. Some people, it helps them because of the injuries they have.
“If we’re not going to approve marijuana, we should shut down all the drug stores — CVS, Walgreens — and also the liquor stores because all of it causes the same effect.”
Robinson said no one kills anyone because they smoke a joint, but they do because they’re drunk or they’re on crack.
“So before people speak on this, they should do more research on the whole marijuana thing on what it really causes,” he said. “It don’t affect the kids unless you let the kids smoke marijuana. There are a lot of kids who do, but that’s because of the upbringing in their household.”
He said the onus lies on the parents and others around them.
“It’s because the parents are not being parents,” Robinson said, “and adults seeing it happening and not wanting to say anything to the kids. As a community, if you see someone’s child going wrong, you need to speak up. Nobody’s doing that.”
Robinson said there need to be programs for children.
“It’s not just going to the youth center, which helps. Lets help the kids.”
Kristian Hopkins said he is not coming out pro or con on the issue, but he said many of the points of view are outdated — kind of “a Reefer Madness mentality.”
“If it’s approved it’s not going to be bedlam here,” Hopkins said. “People aren’t going to start doing it a lot more. If you really look at the quote-unquote gateway drugs, it’s not marijuana. It’s opiates and childhood trauma. We should probably pay more attention to those two things.”