Harrisburg council discusses recreational cannabis

Tara Hull, who is employed at Thrive in Harrisburg, tells Harrisburg City Council how patients benefit from medical cannabis during the council's meeting  on Thursday.

HARRISBURG — The city council discussed the sale of cannabis products for adult recreational use during its regular meeting Thursday evening. 

Mayor John McPeek told those gathered that surrounding towns have been discussing marijuana and the council wanted to allow residents a chance to give some input.

"Recreational marijuana is coming to Harrisburg whether you like it or not," McPeek said, explaining that Gov. JB Pritzker made that decision.

He asked Rosie Naumovski, one of the owners of Thrive, which operates medical cannabis dispensaries in Harrisburg and Anna, to speak.

Naumovski said the industry is the most regulated industry anyone will find. They opened the Harrisburg dispensary in March 2016.

"We have an option here in Harrisburg to sell to individuals 21 and older," she said.

She added that the medical patients are so thankful to be able to buy cannabis legally that they take that opportunity very seriously, making sure they follow all the rules.

The closer the calendar gets to Jan. 1, the more calls the staff at Thrive is getting about adult recreational use from people in neighboring states where marijuana is not legal. They have received calls from Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri.

"Harrisburg could actually be put on the map," Naumovski said.

She talked about their products, saying not all products have psycho-reactive properties.

Illinois currently has 55 medical dispensaries. All of them have the opportunity to sell recreational cannabis.

"This is an opportunity for Harrisburg. I hope they will approve us," she said.

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Her husband, George, is from Canada. Marijuana is legal there. He said they do not see many automobile accidents result from cannabis. In Colorado and Nevada, they have seen a 19 percent decrease in crime since legalizing recreational cannabis.

Six or seven residents also spoke about the issue.

Paul Taylor said he had struggled with the issue after seeing the mayor's post on social media. He asked what other things would result from the sale of cannabis.

"Just because it's legal, we don't have to have it in Harrisburg. It's going against what is moral and right," he said.

Biff Moore said the council has several things to consider, like how to test for intoxication, increased traffic accidents and fatalities.

Danny Gibbs, whose father is on the Saline County Board, urged the council to consider the financial benefits of the sale of recreational cannabis, including more jobs for the county.

"Instead of people leaving, we could bring them in," he said.

Beth Taylor believes a lot of things that are legal are not needed, such as alcohol and tobacco. As a teacher, she has seen the effects of drug use in her classroom. She has young students who are being raised by grandparents because their parents are in jail or dead.

McPeek said marijuana is not really the problem in Harrisburg.

"Micheal Riden is here and can attest to this. Marijuana is not the problem we have in Harrisburg. Meth is our big problem," he said.

County Commissioner Danny Gibbs lives outside the city, but attended the meeting as a county board member. He urged the council to tax the sale of recreational cannabis and use the revenue to reduce property taxes.

The council will vote on the issue at its next meeting, Oct. 17.

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