It’s been a little more than one month since Mount Prospect voted 4-2 to opt-out of recreational cannabis sales. This decision means that businesses within the village’s borders cannot sell recreational cannabis to adults. The vote to opt-out affects everyone, but particularly the village’s medical cannabis dispensary, New Age Care (2015 E. Euclid Ave.) and its parent company, Revolution Global.
On Dec. 10, Mount Prospect trustees heard both sides of the cannabis sales for adult recreational use debate and concluded discussions by rejecting the opt-in ordinance by a vote of 4-2. Trustees who voted in favor of the opt-in ordinance were Colleen Saccotelli and Michael Zadel. Trustees who voted against the opt-in ordinance were Paul Hoefert, William Grossi, Richard Rogers and Eleni Hatzis. As there was no tie, Mayor Arlene Juracek did not vote.
By choosing to opt-out of recreational cannabis retail, the village is losing an estimated $400,000 per year in new tax revenue. In previous public discussions about what that money could be used for, Trustee Saccotelli urged that the money go toward the village’s ever-growing police and fire pension obligations.
CEO of Revolution Global, Mark de Souza, said that when he heard the final vote, he felt “a multitude of feelings, definitely disappointed” and felt surprised to some degree. De Souza and his team have been operating in Mount Prospect for more than a year and have been working toward maintaining a positive relationship with the community and being good stewards to the cannabis industry.
The sales tax from recreational cannabis is where municipalities are expecting to see money flow from. The sale of medical cannabis and adult sales of recreational cannabis are different. For starters, the taxes are different. Medical cannabis patients go through an application process to receive their medical card. They pay the price of the product plus a 1% pharmaceutical tax. People who wish to purchase recreational cannabis do not need an application process; however, they must be at least 21-years-old with a valid form of identification. Adults purchasing cannabis recreationally are taxed in various ways: any product with cannabis flower or less than 35% THC have a 10% sales tax; any edibles or other cannabis-infused products have a 20% sales tax; and any products that contain a THC concentration of 35% or higher have a 25% sales tax.
On top of this, all municipalities are able to add on additional sales tax.
De Souza and other Revolution Global team members attended public meetings, held off-site meetings and tried to educate others and clear up any confusion. It wasn’t until the last two public meetings on retail cannabis sales were held when local residents showed up to voice their concerns. Many of the people at the last meeting — most of whom were not Mount Prospect citizens — brought up concerns about cannabis getting into the hands of children and teenagers.
However, to even get inside an Illinois cannabis dispensary, there’s a vetting process. While different at every facility, the basic rules are the same: when approaching the door, one must present a security guard with a valid, government-issued identification card. This card is scanned to test for validity and individuals are not allowed to enter until cleared. During this time, customers are being recorded on a camera. Once inside, customers are still being recorded on camera. There are no jars full of cannabis, and everything is packaged with a barcode, tracing the product all the way back to the grower.
De Souza has been vocal from the beginning that New Age Care and Revolution Global does not and will not ever sell or market their products to children. “We don’t market to children, don’t have cartoons on our packaging, don’t have products in any store that underage people are allowed in…We first and foremost make medication and secondly, use it to help people,” he said.
De Souza said that people within the company call Revolution the “little engine that could” because of how far it’s come and how large it’s grown over the last few years. Revolution was one of the first companies in the state to become licensed for the state’s medical marijuana program and has a flagship in Delavan, IL, 177 miles away from Mount Prospect. Today, they have approximately 80 acres with plans to expand in the next two years. Currently, the company has locations in other states such as Arkansas, Maryland and Florida.
De Souza said that if someone would have told him when he started his career in 1982 that cannabis was going to become legal one day and turn into a multi-billion dollar industry, “I wouldn’t believe you.”
De Souza believes the industry will evolve and change with visible changes to equity and criminal justice reform in the state such as people being released from jail for cannabis-related charges, reversing the effects of drug enforcement, amongst others. De Souza added that this state policy change will start the process of “destigmatizing something that has been vilified for so long” and added that the state will hopefully see less drunk driving.
While things are looking up for the company, the decision to opt-out does have an effect on the village, its residents and New Age Care. By opting out, this means the business cannot grow in Mount Prospect, nor can other prospective cannabis businesses set up shop. De Souza said that despite disappointment in the decision, the company is still happy to be where they’re at; however, in the short term, they will not be expanding the employment as fast as hoped.
De Souza said that the biggest mistake about the vote is that the village’s civil services are going to be stressed and the vote removed the possibility to help alleviate police and fire department pension costs. “The tax dollars could’ve been going there,” he said. “They’re elected officials doing the best that they can.”