ST. JOSEPH — If a majority of the speakers at Tuesday’s public hearing have their way, don’t look for any marijuana businesses in the village of St. Joseph any time soon.
More than 60 people turned out at the St. Joseph Middle School gym for a hearing on whether cannabis sales should be allowed in the village.
At least 10 of the 15 speakers during the 75-minute hearing spoke out against allowing the sales.
“I have seen a lot of disheartenment from drug abuse and lots of family break-ups,” said longtime teacher and guidance counselor Gary Garrison. “I don’t think economically our community needs drug dispensaries. I think marijuana is an entry-level drug. Socially and economically, I think it is a disaster for our city.”
“To spend any kind of money on legal fees or studies or licensing to put marijuana into this community is a ridiculous use of our tax dollars,” said Jim Sandquist.
“I could try to persuade you with the 2800 percent increase in phone calls over the last few years (that) the National Poison Control Center has fielded for children who have mistakenly ingested goldfish, cookies, brownies, chocolates, breath mints and candy, all containing harmful levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana,” said Greg Smith. “I want you to consider what kind of town you want St. Joseph to be, not for today, but for your grandchildren.”
Mark Maddock called for the village to allow the sale of marijuana.
“I think a fair number of people want marijuana in our town,” Maddock said. “Crime goes down with marijuana use. If we make it more available in the town of St. Joseph, crime would decrease because it is no longer a crime. The question is what is best for our community. I don’t think we should limit the freedom of adults.”
“I think we should allow business persons to make that decision,” said another man, who declined to be identified. “If they want to do it, they should be able to try.”
Three speakers called for putting a question on the ballot to allow the residents of St. Joseph to decide the issue.
“Golf carts were made a priority in this town, and very few people actually have them,” said math professor Amber Anderson. “It seems to depend on who wants it pushed versus who doesn’t want it pushed. If we actually want the community’s input, it needs to get on the ballot.”
“The people who are against it are so passionate about being against it,” said Angela Page. “And the people who are for it are equally as passionate about being for it. I don’t know how anybody would not welcome this to be on the referendum.”
What happens next?
“Now, we have to decide what is best for the community,” said Mayor Tami Fruhling-Voges, who has scheduled a discussion on the topic at the village board's Tuesday study session.
A vote could take place at the board’s Sept. 10 meeting.
Fruhling-Voges said most of the people she has spoken to over the past several weeks oppose allowing the sales.
“There would be an increase in DUIs and mental-health issues,” she said.