EFFINGHAM — Potential customers for adult-use recreational cannabis were disappointed when they arrived at The Clinic Effingham New Year’s Day to find they couldn’t purchase weed on the first day of legalized sales.

Despite news reports and social media posts informing customers Effingham wasn’t quite ready for recreational cannabis sales, some came unknowingly to the medical marijuana dispensary.

Olney resident Cliff Bakehorn was among those who pulled up to The Clinic Effingham Wednesday ready to buy cannabis only to be frustrated when he discovered he couldn’t.

“It’s kind of confusing,” said the 32-year-old. “We looked online at different things in the past couple of days and this seemed to be the place to come today, but now I’m pretty frustrated because of the lack of sales. I don’t understand why.”

Effingham City Council narrowly decided in November to allow Green Thumb Industries, which owns The Clinic Effingham, to sell adult-use recreational cannabis after three public meetings on the topic. Under the new legalization law, municipalities are given the authority to ban recreational marijuana sales within city limits if they so choose.

However, GTI is still working with the City of Effingham to obtain a special-use permit and zoning approval for sales at a location next door to where it already sells medical cannabis.

Bakehorn, an Indiana native, said this was his first visit to any dispensary.

“I’ve been living in Indiana all my life,” said Bakehorn. “The change in this law is still kind of unreal to me. It’s one of those things that you hope will finally happen.”

Bakehorn believes the new law will make it safer for people to use marijuana and help change the attitude toward it in general. He said his mother is a cancer patient and this could be an outlet for pain control for her, if Indiana would allow it.

“I hope more legalization goes through,” said Bakehorn. “I think it will do a lot of good things for people.”

Eric Cady, who resides in Florida, came to Illinois for Christmas. During his visit, a kidney stone incident struck, causing him discomfort and a trip to the emergency room.

“I’ve been nauseous the whole way, so I was hoping this would help,” said Cady after he stopped at The Clinic Wednesday. “It (the kidney stone) ruined my whole trip.”

Cady said he came from northern Illinois and there were 500 people in line at one of the dispensaries there on New Year’s Day.

Kelley Esker, GTI Community Outreach Director, said the company is still working closely with the City of Effingham to gain full approval of sales. The company will be asking for a “recommendation of approval” from the Effingham Plan Commission first, then final approval from city council.

The matter will come before the Effingham Plan Commission at 6 p.m. Jan. 14 and then before the Effingham City Council at 5 p.m. Jan. 21.

“Once we receive approval, adult use would be sold at the current location,” said Esker. “We are currently working on expanding our current location.”

The Clinic earlier this month obtained state approval to do “same-site sales” for medical and adult-use cannabis.

The company has drafted a petition to sell out of the adjacent suite in the same building, with medical cannabis sales to the west end and recreational sales to the east end of the building, said Public Works Director Jeremy Heuerman.

Effingham is expected to collect between $750,000 to $1 million in sales tax revenue annually, Esker said this week.

“Our phone, emails, social media pages have been blowing up asking if we will be open Jan. 1,” said Esker. “These inquiries are from all over, including from Indiana residents. Our patients have shared how we bring care to a different level with friends, family and neighbors. Those people are willing to drive to experience that type of care and education.”

On Wednesday, The Clinic had staff members on hand to answer questions about the sales of recreational-use cannabis, but referred any media questions to be answered by corporate spokespeople.

The Clinic has been selling medical cannabis in Effingham for three years. Until all approvals are met, The Clinic Effingham will only serve those with the medical cannabis cards.

GTI expects to change the name of the dispensary to Rise Effingham upon opening of the new location, in its rebranding efforts across Illinois. GTI also has locations in Mundelein, Canton, Quincy and Joliet.

Dawn Schabbing can be reached at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext 138.

Reporter

Dawn Schabbing is a senior reporter at the Effingham Daily News, covering Effingham City Hall, Unit 40, and special projects. A graduate of Lake Land College and Eastern Illinois University with degrees in journalism, she lives in Neoga.

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