Cannabis market could aid DeKalb

By Payton Higgins

DeKalb’s decision to allow the cannabis market into the county could ultimately revitalize DeKalb’s economy and NIU’s appeal to current and prospective students.

The DeKalb City Council met Sept. 9 for a Committee of the Whole meeting, where it discussed the cannabis market coming to DeKalb. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill June 25 to legalize the recreational consumption and distribution of marijuana. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

As discussed by the Committee of the Whole, DeKalb intends to take advantage of this growing industry.

In 2015, “the City Council amended the City’s Unified Development Ordinance to permit the sale of medical cannabis under very restrictive guidelines,” according to the meeting agenda.

These restrictions disallowed dispensaries from operating in cities or within 1,000 feet of schools and residential establishments. However, it is now under consideration to allow medical and recreational dispensaries to operate in any light-commercial district or general commercial district, according to the agenda. These districts are any part of a city where commercial activities are the primary use of the area, such as downtown DeKalb. Dispensaries would also be allowed to operate closer to schools and residential buildings and receive product deliveries from any commercial establishment, according to the agenda.

Undoubtedly, a cannabis market in a college town will flourish. When recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, “enrollment at the University of Colorado shot up by thirty-three percent. That was 2014. Applications from out of state [students] rose even further, producing a forty-three percent rise in prospective students,” according to Sept. 2018 The Quad article.

This year marked the lowest enrollment rate at NIU in the last 50 years, with a headcount of only 16,609 students, according to data from the university. The cannabis market could bring in higher enrollment at NIU. It is likely that it also could greatly benefit DeKalb’s economy.

During the Committee of the Whole meeting, resident Dwayne Brown spoke in favor of the cannabis market, citing a study conducted by the University of Illinois. The study found “taxation and regulation of marijuana could create 24,000 jobs and generate over five billion in revenue.”

Other cannabis-related establishments will also find a home in DeKalb. These establishments will provide jobs, while also ensuring the success of the market. Craft growers cultivate higher-quality cannabis and package it for sale at dispensaries. Infusers will incorporate cannabis or cannabis concentrate into a product to produce edibles and tinctures, according to the agenda. The arrival of this market is the best thing that could be happening to DeKalb. It is in the city’s best interest to expand this market as much as it can come January.