GRANT PARK — Residents of Grant Park will be the ones to decide if marijuana dispensary businesses will be allowed to operate in the village.
“We had enough debate that we thought a better idea was to put it on the ballot as a referendum,” Martin Roth, mayor of Grant Park, said after Monday’s informational meeting at the village’s community center. “The easiest way to decide is allowing voters the right to voice their opinion.”
The village board voted unanimously in December to place a non-binding referendum on the March 17 ballot. The referendum question reads: “Should the Village of Grant Park allow cannabis dispensary businesses to sell adult-use (recreational) cannabis at retail within the village?”
During Monday’s informational meeting, 40 people listened to presentations from both sides of the issue.
Even if the referendum passes, Roth told the audience it would be a long time before there was a possibility of a dispensary in the village of 1,300 people in northeast Kankakee County.
Currently, there are 46 dispensaries in the state licensed to sell recreational marijuana. Another 55 licenses will be issued this summer.
“It’s encouraging this is a referendum,” Kankakee State’s Attorney Jim Rowe said. “There are some decisions that are best left in the hands of the community.”
Joining Rowe on a panel at the meeting were Kankakee County Coroner Bob Gessner; Lindsay Wilson, health promotions coordinator for the Kankakee County Health Department; Todd Zehr, owner of SoilBiotics located in Kankakee County; and Matthew Ryan, an executive with Cresco Labs, one of the largest cannabis companies in the United States that runs five dispensaries in Illinois.
Concerns for youth were mentioned several times.
Lindsay Wilson quoted from the Illinois Youth Survey for 2018. The results are based on a sample of more than 11,2000 students in the eighth, 10th and 12th grades in Illinois.
According to the report, marijuana use was highest among seniors, with about 25.6 percent reporting they had used marijuana during the past 30 days, compared with 13.2 percent of 10th-graders and 5.2 percent of eighth-graders.
Rowe said his office has already handled five cases since Jan. 1 of students being arrested for possession of marijuana in a school.
These are considered civil offenses with a $100 fine for the first and $200 for the second.
“You can only arrest them if they have more than 30 grams,” Rowe said.
Ryan said the additional revenue a dispensary can bring into a community would help fund additional resources for police as well as help the community.
Cresco is involved in all 11 states that currently allow the sale of recreational marijuana. It goes from seed to sale, Ryan said.
“The question for you is how do you handle this in your town and in your home?” Ryan said.