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Harrisburg council says 'yes' to recreational cannabis; will start sales on Jan. 1

  • Residents fill the Harrisburg city council chambers Thursday night.

    Residents fill the Harrisburg city council chambers Thursday night.
    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO

  • Harrisburg city Commissioner Roger Angelly, second from left, explains his rationale for voting yes on recreational cannabis.

    Harrisburg city Commissioner Roger Angelly, second from left, explains his rationale for voting yes on recreational cannabis.
    TRAVIS DENEAL PHOTO

 
By Travis DeNeal tdeneal@dailyregister.com
updated: 11/8/2019 9:35 AM

HARRISBURG -- The Harrisburg City Council voted 4-1 Thursday to permit recreational cannabis sales in the city, and to tax gross sales at 3%.

The council also voted to issue a license to a business allowing them to sell recreational cannabis in the city.

Recreation sales will go into effect in Illinois -- and Harrisburg -- on Jan. 1, 2020.

While the number of people in attendance wasn't the standing room only crowd the city saw when the measure first was proposed -- then removed -- from the agenda in October, more than 50 people came.

Commissioner Roger Angelly, who voted yes, said to him the issue comes down to people who need marijuana for medical purposes being able to get it, whether their physician prescribes it or not.

"I know it's hard and a very emotional thing for a lot of us involved," Angelly said, who referenced the town hall meeting on marijuana that Mayor John McPeek organized.

"I listened that night ... and almost everybody said they were in favor of medical marijuana," Angelly said.

(But) "A lot of people can't get medical marijuana because their doctor won't prescribe it."

He also said he's in favor of the city issuing a single license to a business to sell recreational cannabis, and that the city should review the license each year.

"We can review it to see if that money's there, and if it's causing any problems," Angelly said.

Commissioner Raymond Gunning was the lone "no" vote for both measures.

Commissioner Rupert Johnson, who also voted "yes" said the issue was more complicated than a yes-or-no vote.

"Well, I wish it was that easy," Johnson said. "Right now, we have a business that wants to expand, so I have to say yes."

Gorgi Naumovski, who with his wife, Rosie, co-owns Thrive dispensaries in Harrisburg, Anna and Mount Vernon, said he was pleased with council's decision. He said it will help the local economies of towns where their dispensaries operate.

"The obvious is going to be the financial impact to the city with the 3% tax. We're going to add 30-plus jobs at each location, Anna, Harrisburg and Mount Vernon," Naumovski said.

He said he anticipates significant traffic to the area when recreational cannabis is legal to sell by licensed businesses in Illinois on Jan. 1

"People are going to be coming from out of state, in-state and will be spending money locally like gas, at restaurants, grocery shopping.

"I think it will definitely impact on the positive side," he said.