EAST PEORIA — The harsh economic realities of his family-owned trucking business led Roy Sorce, owner of East Peoria's Sorce Enterprises, to seek new ways to make money and keep his workers gainfully employed.
"It has become harder and harder to find truck drivers," Sorce said Tuesday.
The search brought him before the East Peoria Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday, where he sought a recommendation to allow him to grow small batches of flowering cannabis plants and to extract the oils to be used in the production of edible marijuana products at his facility at 3201 N. Main St. The zoning board approved Sorce's two applications for special use permits for the marijuana operations.
The City Council will decide next Tuesday whether the business can move forward and pursue a state license to grow marijuana and make marijuana products.
"This is all new to me," Sorce said. "But we're happy to be able to keep moving forward."
The sale of marijuana and marijuana products became legal in Illinois on Jan. 1. The state will grant 75 licenses, statewide, for businesses to sell cannabis for adult use. In addition, the state will award 40 licenses to businesses for the cultivation of smaller smaller "craft" batches of marijuana plants. According to Sorce, the state will rank the applications and award the 40 licenses to the 40 highest scoring, most comprehensive, applications.
That means first getting right with the local municipality where the site will be located.
"Getting the special use approval with the zoning board and then City Council approval are the first necessary steps," Sorce said. "Then it is up to the state to decide who gets licensed."
A cultivation operation, like the one in Delavan, can be as large as 210,000 square feet, Sorce said. A craft grower operation can contain no more than 5,000 square feet of plants in a 10,000 square foot facility. The state reserves the right to expand or contract the size of the operation depending on its success, Sorce said.
Sorce Enterprises, a food service industry trucking firm, has 23 employees who are truck drivers, administrative staff and warehouse workers. Sorce said he would add 25 employees if his application was successful.
"And we'd expand from there," he said.
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at email@example.com. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.