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On January 1, 2020, it will be legal for individuals over the age of 21 to possess and use cannabis throughout the state of Illinois.  Not permitting a dispensary does not mean that adult-use cannabis will be illegal in Decatur, it means that it will not be legally sold in Decatur.  Two surrounding communities, Springfield and Urbana, have already approved adult-use cannabis dispensaries.  The Decatur metropolitan area which includes smaller communities is eligible for only one dispensary as of May 1, 2020.  This dispensary could be in Decatur, it could be in a nearby village, it could be in an unincorporated area of Macon County.  In my view, if there is going to be a dispensary in the Decatur metropolitan area, it should be in the city of Decatur.  Whatever the increased societal costs of adult-use cannabis will be, revenue from an adult-use cannabis dispensary will help offset those costs through sales tax revenue in a way that will not occur if the dispensary ends up in a town nearby.   

I have had the honor to serve in public office for two and a half years.  Since that time, two themes have been communicated frequently: 1) don’t raise taxes, and 2) don’t cut services.  What is unclear is how city leaders are not going to raise taxes and maintain services without new sources of revenue.  An adult-use cannabis dispensary in Decatur gives the city the opportunity to raise revenue through taxation of sales of a soon-to-be legal product.  Combined with other cannabis-related businesses, we have the opportunity to create jobs and re-purpose vacant buildings.  The alternative appears to be that other surrounding communities offer dispensaries, create jobs, repurpose or build new buildings, and receive tax revenue from out-of-town visitors, while Decatur continues to experience the negative societal consequences to the state legalizing adult-use cannabis. 

A black market for cannabis will likely exist no matter what Decatur decides, but a Decatur dispensary may reduce the black market for individuals willing to purchase the product legally.  In the case of adult-use cannabis, a black market can be a threat to human health.  Drug dealers can distribute cannabis that has elevated levels of THC or be laced with other drugs such as fentanyl resulting in increased toxicity and enhanced health risks.  Recent cases regarding vaping illustrate the significant consequences of using unregulated products.  Finally, Decatur does not have a medical cannabis dispensary despite medical cannabis being legal since January 1, 2014.  Having an adult-use dispensary could mean that medical cannabis users do not have to drive to surrounding cities to purchase a legal product. 

It is clear that state policy is ahead of our scientific understanding of the impact of adult-use cannabis.  This creates a large set of unknowns for policy makers at the local level.  In the end, I do not see any benefits to the city of Decatur opting-out of a dispensary and passing this opportunity to a nearby municipality.  I see distinct advantages to having a dispensary in the city including providing a legal, regulated product to those over 21, putting an end to medical cannabis users having to drive elsewhere to purchase products that help them, and providing a new source of revenue for a city that is experiencing significant population decline and subsequent reduction in its tax base. 

Horn for Decatur
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