KANKAKEE — Several people urged Kankakee lawmakers to slow down on the rush to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana within the city.
At Monday’s Kankakee City Council meeting, several people expressed concern that the city is rushing to pass legislation legalizing recreational marijuana sales without further exploring what ramifications such an action could have on the citizens and the city itself.
The council has not stated exactly when a vote on this matter would be taken, but time is beginning to run short as the end of the year is approaching. On Jan. 1, Illinois will become the 11th state to fully legalize pot.
During the public comment section of the meeting, speakers asked if council members had fully considered what impact such a move would have here.
Tom Brands, a Kankakee resident, posed questions to the council.
He asked if the city would become a better place to live? Would it become more attractive to good families and industries? Would the city be able to attract better skilled employees? Would it increase home sales or decrease property values?
It is issues like these, he said, which lead to residents leaving the state in search of better living environments.
“It will increase our revenue,” he said. “But a quick fix can leave you more broke in the long run. Don’t be in a hurry.”
This summer, the state approved legislation legalizing marijuana sales and consumption. However, it was left up to each municipality to determine if it would allow sales and use.
Many communities are exploring it and some have already declined it. Among those declining its sales are: Mokena, Orland Park, Plainfield, Wheaton, Naperville, Downers Grove, Bolingbrook and unincorporated DuPage County.
Kankakee and Bradley are two Kankakee County communities which have held public hearings on the legalization of its sale. The sale of marijuana can take place as early as Jan. 1. Many governmental bodies — including these two — have already approved special 3-percent sales taxes on marijuana.
The sales tax legislation had to be approved and turned into the Illinois Department of Revenue prior to Oct. 1.
Like alcohol, marijuana purchases would be limited to those age 21 and older.
Since this product has never been legal to sell to the general public, governmental bodies are only speculating on what type of revenue could be realized through its sale.
Whether Kankakee would gain $100 or $250,000, some residents believe this is a move the city would live to regret.
Resident Carl Randle said pot smoking negatively affects the brain.
“It’s not a good thing. Look at how alcohol has affected our citizens. What do you think marijuana is going to do? Save our children,” he said.
Kate Reed, Drug-Free Communities Project coordinator at the Pledge for Life and the I-KAN Regional Office of Education, asked a seemingly simple question: “Are we sure this will make us a healthier and safer community?”
Another resident simply asked the council to do its due diligence. “Don’t think just about the money. Think about our kids’ future. There is no angle in which this will help our community. ... Think more about than just the money.”
Karen Silva, a Kankakee mother who recently immigrated to the United States, had a simple request.
Ask mothers, she said. If the vote were up to moms, what would the outcome be?
“If you have a doubt about this, ask your mom,” the mother of three said.
Pastor Howard Wills informed council members that they would be held accountable for their decision.
“I ask you to think this through. Lives are more important than revenue.”