People on both sides of marijuana debate try to sway Mundelein trustees

With Mundelein officials preparing to debate allowing recreational marijuana sales at licensed dispensaries, people on both sides of the issue passionately tried to win over trustees Monday night.

A pediatrician, local teens and a mental health expert were among those who urged a ban on recreational sales in town. They voiced concerns about addiction and predicted increases in the numbers of car accidents and emergency room visits, among other possible byproducts of more legal marijuana sales.

People who spoke in favor of allowing recreational sales included a former Mundelein trustee and a man who identified himself as a military veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

The comments from more than a dozen people at the start of the village board's meeting came on the same night a representative of the village's lone pot dispensary, the Clinic Mundelein, made a pitch for his industry. The Clinic already has received one of the first state licenses for recreational marijuana sales, although that move could be voided by the village board.

As of Jan. 1, anyone 21 or older can possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate and 500 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

Sales at state-licensed dispensaries would be allowed to expand beyond medical uses. Individual communities, however, can restrict or ban cannabis sales.

Former Mundelein Trustee Terri Voss was among those who spoke in favor of allowing sales. Voss, who said she possesses a medical marijuana card, said she supported allowing medicinal marijuana sales as a board member and now backs recreational sales.

"You have the opportunity to do so much for your community," Voss told the board.

Also speaking in favor of expanded marijuana sales was Caleb Masoner, the CEO of a Chicago-based nonprofit group called Operation 1620 that supports allowing veterans to use cannabis instead of pharmaceutical drugs.

Standing at the boardroom's lectern, he held up a plastic bag of pill bottles and said marijuana gives him more relief from post-traumatic stress disorder than the medication he receives from the U.S. government.

Prohibition, he said, would continue participation in a black market system.

Opponents who spoke included Kim Radoy, a substance abuse prevention coordinator at Nicasa Behavioral Health Services who's also active with the Stand Up Mundelein anti-drug task force.

Radoy said she and her allies are concerned about the involvement of the tobacco industry in the cannabis industry as well as the marketing of marijuana to children.

Radoy cited a recent Daily Herald article about representatives from a Buffalo Grove medical marijuana dispensary who gave hats and other promotional items to minors during the Buffalo Grove Days festival.

Mundelein officials need to stop expansion and "limit local damage," Radoy said.

Several high school students spoke against local cannabis sales. One said forcing Mundelein residents to drive elsewhere for legal pot would serve as an obstacle.

After the public was done, the board heard from two representatives of Green Thumb Industries, the Chicago company that owns the Clinic Mundelein: CEO Ben Kovler and Dina Rollman, the company's senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs.

They spoke of the financial benefits of allowing recreational sales, tried to clear up some myths and answered questions from trustees.

Kovler said he's confident recreational sales could generate $1 million annually in new taxes for the village. He also said the company would try to hire local workers if the business expands and that the Clinic would remain at its current site in an industrial area at 1325 Armour Blvd.

Although some Mundelein trustees have shared opinions on social media, the board hasn't formally jumped into the fray yet. A public debate was proposed for Sept. 23, but that could be delayed.

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