PAXTON — A rural Rankin man planning to open a cannabis business in the area said he feels people need to be better educated about the marijuana industry before it becomes a legal reality in Illinois on Jan. 1.
“I’ve already gone to quite a few public hearings and town meetings in different local areas, and the general spearhead I keep running into is that some people have certain knowledge that they’ve been taught that they believe is correct and up to date,” when it is sometimes not, Daiven Kayne Michael Emling told members of the Paxton City Council on Tuesday night.
To help the situation, Emling said he wants to organize at least one educational seminar/public forum in Paxton, Rankin or another smaller town in East Central Illinois to address misconceptions about cannabis as well as any concerns anyone living there may have, including its health risks and potential access to the drug by minors.
“I want to bring (the event) to this area because this is the entirety of the area that I want to operate in,” Emling told Paxton aldermen.
A woman in the audience Tuesday agreed that there needs to be some kind of townwide meeting to address questions and concerns, noting that “people don’t understand the differences between hemp, CBD, marijuana, THC.” She said that until that happens, she doubts Emling will be able to “get very far” with his plans to open his proposed cannabis dispensary, bakery and cafe.
Emling said he is in the process of “feeling out towns” in the area about whether they would be receptive to his proposed business locating there. The 30-year-old, who lives on a 6-acre horse farm north of Rankin in Vermilion County, fielded what he termed a “healthy mix” of both concerns and positive feedback about his business plans during a public hearing held in Rankin in August.
A number of concerns he has heard so far, meanwhile, seem to be based on inaccurate information, Emling said.
“I’ve just noticed, going to certain meetings here and there, that some facts (presented by the public) are off, and some concerns are maybe less warranted ... than they need to be.”
Emling said he feels that with Paxton being centrally located between Rantoul, Gibson City, Rankin and Gilman, it would make for a good location “to at least start the educational process” in the rural towns around the area. Emling asked Paxton aldermen to give some thought to the idea of the city helping facilitate an educational event.
While Emling said he does not expect to be awarded the required state licenses for his proposed business until next summer at the earliest, he wants to bring his plans up for public discussion now instead of later because, as he put it, “there’s a lot of smoke to clear.”
“I just want to put my name out there as somebody you guys can come to and ask questions if you’re concerned about a certain aspect of it,” Emling told aldermen.
Emling said his business would be “something different to offer up to the people — a safe place to try (cannabis) for medical (purposes) or just try it for recreational (purposes).”
Emling said he wants to locate his business in this area because he has lived in this area all of his life and wants to see its communities benefit from the tax revenue cannabis sales would generate.
“I’ve lived up and down this whole area, and I want to see this whole area flourish with this new industry,” Emling said.
A number of area towns — including Paxton and Sibley — have already approved imposing a 3 percent municipal sales tax on any future recreational marijuana purchases made locally. However, the option remains for those same towns to “opt out” of allowing cannabis sales if they so choose.