Fulton City Hall, police department

FULTON, Ill. — Though the Fulton City Council addressed other issues during its regular meeting last week, Fulton residents continued to weigh in on whether to allow the sale of recreational marijuana in Fulton.

Kyle Folk told the city council last week that the Illinois recreational cannabis law directs funds to local governments for police training, prevention, interdiction and for combating driving under the influence even if those cities don’t allow the sale of cannabis.

The legislation gives money to state police, not to local police, and charges them with enforcement, Folk said. According to Illinois law, the compassionate use of medical cannabis program is supposed to fund crime prevention program with excess revenues, Folk said, and Fulton will see a portion of all state recreational marijuana excise tax without having it sold in the city.

“We do not have to sell recreational marijuana or have marijuana in town to get that excise revenue,” Folk said. “We do not have to create the opportunity for more people to become addicted.

“If it all boils down to money, there will never be enough no matter how much you tax,” Folk said. “I’ll guarantee we will never have enough money for enforcement and treatment if we never address prevention. Banning the sale of recreational marijuana is a drug abuse prevention mechanism.”

Lucien Debatty presented a petition signed by 277 Fulton residents, 480 members of Whiteside County and a total of over 1,100 individuals. Debatty said the people who signed the petition want to come to Fulton and spend money at both cannabis and non-cannabis businesses, and he reminded the city that it can do nothing to prohibit cannabis use or possession in the city limits. All the city can do is reasonably regulate cannabis.

“Unfortunately, your hands have been tied in that regard by the State of Illinois,” Debatty said. “What you can do is you can reasonably regulate. And while there was some mention of tax revenue that you’ll get regardless, that is absolutely true. But that is a fraction of what could be done through implementing an excise tax and amendments here in the city of Fulton.”

Jeff Soenksen, General Manager of The Dispensary, reminded the council that the city is not inviting strangers into the community to sell cannabis but a company that has sold cannabis weekly in the community for three-plus years. Soenksen said The Dispensary has never been charged with a violation and has assisted Fulton police with investigations not dealing with cannabis because The Dispensary has cameras in surrounding areas.

“We’re here to make sure we do a good job,” Soenksen said. “Make sure that anything that comes out of our establishment stays out of the hands of children.”

Soenksen referenced comments at Monday’s meeting about driving under the influence and children taking cannabis to schools. He reminded the city that it is not their purpose to decide on consumption. Consumption will happen whether there is an adult-use store in town or not, Soenksen said.

“We’re here to determine if you want this sale of this substance to be available in the city of Fulton,” Soenksen said. “Which people who are already doing it are doing one of the best jobs in the State of Illinois. So if I wanted someone here to sell that substance, I’d pick the people that are already doing a really good job.”

Fulton resident Debra Brown said if children are going to use marijuana she would rather it be taken care of and watched over and “not full of rat poison and other things like they get off the street.” Brown said the children in Colorado who had issues with marijuana would have had those problems anyway, not because the state legalized it.

Good parenting takes care of potential drug problems, Brown said.

“I am for legalizing the marijuana so that we can have tax dollars in this town,” Brown said. “Because no matter what, like they say, it’s going to be legal in Illinois. You’re not stopping anything. The kids that are going to want to take [it] to school are still going to get it. They’re still going to take it to school.”

Kristin Huisenga, who has four children in the River Bend School District, said sometimes good parenting is not enough. Children sometimes do things even when parents do not want them to.

Huisenga also expressed concern about the lack of substance abuse resources in parts of Whiteside County.

“Approximately one in 10 people who use marijuana will become addicted,” Huisenga said. “And I’d like to remind you, on this half of Whiteside County we have absolutely no resources to help prevent or to treat people with a substance abuse addiction. We have no mental health resources in our community. So how can we bring this in without any resources to support people if they do become addicted to it.”

Andrew Byard has spent the last six years in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, more than five years of those as a manger in the legal cannabis industry. Byard said the biggest problem Colorado has seen is driving under the influence.

“The problem with that, though, is it comes down to a personal choice,” Byard said. “It is the person that is making a wrong choice to get behind the wheel, just as tonight, as people leave the bar here in town, they’re also making a bad decision where they may be over the influence.”