SAUGET, Ill. (WKRN) — Just over the Missouri border sits the small village of Sauget, Illinois. Population: 141.
“It’s right on the border. We’re about a driver, nine-iron from the river right here,” Mayor Richard A. Sauget Jr. said.
His grandfather, Leo Sauget, was the first mayor of the village when it was first established under the name Monsanto in 1926. That name changed in 1969 to honor Leo.
Over 50 years later, the same namesake has been passed down in the village. It might be small, yet it draws in thousands of visitors every single day, partially because it has two cannabis dispensaries.
“It’s a part of our culture now,” Mayor Sauget said.
“People are naive to think cannabis isn’t in their community,” Jushi Holdings Inc. Chief Commercial Director Trent Woloveck said. “So, the question is, ‘Do you want it to be safe consumption or unsafe consumption?’ And that’s really what it comes down to.”
Jushi owns Beyond Hello, the name of both dispensaries in Sauget and many of its dispensaries around the country.
In Tennessee and Kentucky, recreational cannabis is illegal. But, people are willing to make the drive over the Ohio River, crossing state lines into Illinois, that’s where it is legal. The drive is roughly an hour into the state from some parts of Tennessee.
“There are stores on the border. I’m going to say, over 50 percent of their business is from folks from Tennessee,” Woloveck said.
Cannabis has been a big debate in Tennessee over the last few years. Critics argue it isn’t federally legal yet, while proponents say cannabis use is already happening illegally, so you may as well make money and make it safer by taxing and regulating it.
“It’s a question of safe or unsafe. Do you want your constituents to consume safe product, plain and simple? It is in the community, people can buy cannabis,” Woloveck said. “They can get it delivered quicker than they can get Dominos delivered.”
Will we see cannabis legislation pass next year? Legislators told News 2 there will at least be a bill introduced. Whether or not it passes is the difficult part.