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The Decatur Civic Center theater.

We're delighted at the expanded study session the Decatur City Council is presenting on Monday, Sept. 30.

The Decatur City Council is scheduled to discuss legalized recreational marijuana and its benefits and detriments at a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the theater of the Decatur Civic Center.

The location already acknowledges the widespread interest in the issue. Decatur again will be making a decision that will make history and haunt history.

Decatur residents have long memories when it comes to these kinds of decisions, and their memories are especially long when the decisions have a perceived negative impact, be it deciding against what became Hickory Point Mall or giving the OK to video gambling only to see storefronts of them littering the city landscape.

The OK for video gambling was based largely on the idea of the amount the city could acquire from licensing the machines. Proponents on both sides of the opt-in/out issue as it relates to recreational marijuana sales in the city point to tax revenues, with one group giving the impression of an economic boon and the other arguing that the money won't be what's promised and will come with too many unforeseen problems.

Appearance and location are important issues for those debating allowing dispensaries. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said dispensaries should be outside of the downtown area. That fits with the vision of economic help for areas most battered by the “war on drugs” launched in the 1980s. But it also fits with a vision of keeping wealthier areas “safe” from the legal product.

Some cities have made their decision about taxing. Collinsville, Springfield, Sterling, Dixon, the Whiteside County Board and others have set the tax on recreational marijuana at 3%, the highest allowed by law.

There's also at least one potential legal pothole ahead. (No pun intended.) According to the Illinois Municipal League, a municipality can choose to ban all marijuana business establishments. Many municipal attorneys, however, read the same language and fear that municipalities that do opt out could eventually be challenged in court.

We're firmly in the position that people should be allowed to consume legal consumables. Our track record as humanity has shown us that if we're pulling things out of the ground and consuming them, we're generally doing OK. We're completely accepting of man-made chemicals to deal with our health issues, yet there are still those who will laugh at the idea that marijuana can help those who suffer with chronic pain or with mental issues. There are those who aren't helped at all. That's the kind of results the drug can have.

Were the legality of cigarettes or alcohol being proposed today, they'd probably face the same kind of opposition, and even less support, than marijuana has.

If one of the fears is increased numbers of people disqualified from jobs through drug tests, it's interesting to consider the possibility of a future re-working of what's allowed to what amount and what's not allowed. Unless and until drug tests are reconsidered and recalibrated, as of Jan. 1, marijuana will be as legal as alcohol, tobacco and gambling. There's going to be someone willing to take on the issue of drug tests and jobs in a lawsuit shortly after Jan. 1.

The decision is a difficult one, and thereby impossible to call “wrong.” The best the council can do is reflect the will of its constituents.

Monday's session could be an interesting indicator of what those constituents believe.

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