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Perry County still waiting for its first cannabis dispensary

By Renee Trappe
updated: 1/17/2020 10:01 AM

Perry County Board Chairman Dallas Bigham watched with interest on Jan. 1 as crowds swarmed the new recreational marijuana dispensaries in Marion, Harrisburg and Anna, among others.

Altogether the state estimates there was $3.2 million in cannabis sales on Jan. 1, and $5.4 million over the first two days of legalization.

"I wish I could tell you there were three or four" dispensaries in Perry County that day, Bigham said with a chuckle.

Alas, no businesses have yet approached Perry County to apply for a cannabis sales license, Bigham confirmed Monday.

In December, the Perry County Board optimistically set the tax rate for marijuana sales at 3.75%, which will apply to any future dispensaries that open in the county.

"Marijuana is here," Bigham said. "The genie is out of the bottle."

He is hopeful that once the state releases 75 more licenses, businesses will be interested in coming to Perry County. So far, the only dispensaries given licenses were already cleared to sell medical marijuana. The new licenses will be made available to businesses at large.

Applications for the second round of licenses were due between Dec. 10 and Jan. 2. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation will award the "conditional adult use dispensing organization licenses" by May 1, 2020. It is unclear if any applications submitted are for Perry County.

For Bigham and the county board, it's all about the revenue. The county is going to try again to pass a hike in the county sales tax, this time on the March 17, 2020 primary ballot. But the measure was defeated by a more than 2 to 1 margin in 2019, and marijuana sales may be a more likely source of revenue -- if only the county could attract a dispensary.

Illinois residents 21 and older are now allowed to possess up to 1 ounce (30 grams) of marijuana, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate products or edibles with no more than 500 grams of THC.

Out of state buyers can acquire half of those amounts.

Meanwhile, communities like Du Quoin, that have not addressed marijuana taxation at the city council level yet, have not missed out.

Brad Cole, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League (and the former Carbondale mayor), said municipalities that adopt a marijuana tax by April 1 will be able to collect taxes on marijuana sales starting July 1 -- presuming a business in their community gets a license.

For communities that miss the April 1 deadline, the next deadline is Oct. 1. Cities that adopt a tax structure by Oct. 1 will start collecting revenue on Jan. 1, 2021, again presuming a dispensary in their community gets a license.

Altogether, the law allows for the creation of 500 licenses between 2020 and 2022, issued on a staggered basis.

Cole said the IML is encouraging communities to get their tax structure set up soon.

"We're encouraging (cities) to adopt a tax at the earliest opportunity so businesses will know what the landscape is," he said. Municipalities can tax marijuana sales a maximum of 3% -- whether they are home rule communities or not home rule doesn't matter, Cole added.