Centralia Hopes to be Home to Marijuana Center

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By Evie Allen
By Andy Shofstall

CENTRALIA -- Illinois plans to set up 22 pot-growing facilities as part of its new medical marijuana law. One in each state police district.

Many communities are applying to host those facilities, hoping for an economic boost. Centralia is among them.

At a recent meeting, city leaders voted unanimously in support of a marijuana operation in town.

Centralia leaders have already met with investors who are interested in the area. Now it's up to the Department of Agriculture to approve the city's plan.  

This time next year 20,000 feet of farm land on the corner of Copple Road and Woods Lane, could be the home of a marijuana cultivation center.

Centralia City Councilman David Sauer believes the new center will be great for the community.

"There's some heat to take when you bring a culitvation center into your community but for the tax revenue, we'll take the heat," he says.

Investor, Largo Meds LLC is offering 5% of its gross to Centralia if it locates in town.

"When you bring in that kind of money and potentially reduce your real estate taxes, of course that's the big selling point and why other communities, I suspect, will be getting interested in this," explains Sauer.

Another highlight is employment. The center could create up to 24 jobs.

"They'll need 10 to 15 full-time employees and then they'll have additional employees that will be considered part-time or seasonal," explains economic development director Kala Lambert.

Sauer believes it's the kind of opportunity the city has been waiting for.

"We think we have a good chance because our community has higher unemployment. We do have a drug problem and they actually expect us to use some of the money to address the drug problems," he says.

The center will be used to grow marijuana for medical purposes but it will not distribute the pot. It also has to be located 2,500 feet away from residential areas, schools, daycares and churches.      

"When people are concerned about, oh this is growing marijuana, yes but it's not going to get into your kids hands. Not this marijuana," says Sauer. 

Sauer says, so far the city hasn't had any complaints. And he wants to reassure residents the operation will be safe.

"The facility is going to be uber-regulated. It's going to be chopped into components. It's going to be observed by State Police."

Communities will be selected for the marijuana growing centers after the November elections. If chosen, Centralia plans to begin construction immediately. 

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