Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

Eric Schmid

Metro East Reporter

Ways to Connect

Steven King, owner of Metro Shooting Supplies, inspects one of the firearms in his store. Illinois State Police put new regulations for gun stores in effect this month.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — New rules from the Illinois State Police expand regulations on how firearms dealers must run their businesses. 

They directly impact how gun stores keep records, store weapons and ammunition and maintain surveillance and security systems.

Licensed dealers have to keep electronic records of their inventory and sales that can be easily searched by a firearm serial number, name of purchaser and other defining aspects of the gun or sale. 

The Green Solution in Sauget will now be able to sell marijuana to recreational users. The dispensary has not said when it will start recreational sales.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

SAUGET — There are now two places in the Metro East where people can legally purchase recreational marijuana.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation awarded the Green Solution in Sauget a “same-site” license Wednesday, which allows the dispensary to open its doors to recreational users in addition to the medical marijuana patients it already serves. The department also awarded a license for a recreational-only site in Quincy.  

Officials from the Green Solution did not respond to requests for comment before our deadline.

Have a question about legal marijuana in Illinois or medical marijuana in Missouri? Ask here, and we'll update this guide with answers as we report them out.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 8 a.m., Jan. 15 with more answers to reader questions —

2020 will be a year of new marijuana laws. Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana on Jan. 1, six years after Colorado first started recreational sales. Missouri begins medical marijuana sales later in the year — likely this spring — and thousands of residents have already received certification cards.

With totally different laws in the neighboring states, there’s an understandable level of confusion among residents: Why is it easier to get medical marijuana in Missouri than in Illinois? Where can you consume cannabis products legally? How much will marijuana cost at dispensaries? And with the ease of traveling between Missouri and Illinois in the St. Louis region, what are the rules about bringing weed across state lines?

Cannabis flower grows at a recreational grow facility in Illinois. Sales of recreational marijuana started Illinois Jan 1.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

COLLINSVILLE — Legal recreational cannabis in Illinois goes on sale on Jan. 1, with at least one dispensary in the Metro East set to offer the product to both medical patients and recreational users.

Here are a few things you should know about buying and consuming Illinois’ recreational marijuana in 2020 and beyond.

East Main Street in Belleville. The city has created a committee to ensure a complete count of its residents in the 2020 census.
Paul Sableman | Flickr

BELLEVILLE — The city government has established a 22-person “Complete Count Committee” to increase the likelihood of an accurate headcount in the 2020 census.

The group isn’t formally affiliated with the official headcount, but it will work to engage and educate Belleville residents about the census and how to get counted, said Jennifer Ferguson, one of the 2020 census coordinators for the city.

Cannabis plants grow inside Ascend Illinois indoor facility in Barry, IL. Ascend owns two existing medical dispensaries and plans to open two additional recreational dispensaries early next year.
File Photo | Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Supplies of recreational marijuana in Illinois will likely be tight when the drug is fully legalized on Jan 1. A group of state lawmakers wrote a joint letter this month expressing their concerns.

“Each state that has implemented an adult-use cannabis program has had issues related to supply shortages,” wrote the group, including state Sens. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, and Laura Fine, D-Glenview, and state Reps. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago; Bob Morgan, D-Highwood; Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria; Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, and David Welter, R-Morris.

Cannabis flower grows at a recreational grow facility in Illinois. Sales of recreational marijuana started Illinois Jan 1.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

Employers in Missouri may face many of the same challenges surrounding legal recreational marijuana as their Illinois counterparts.

Possession and consumption of the drug without a medical card will still be illegal in Missouri in the new year. But there’s nothing limiting residents from crossing the Mississippi River and consuming marijuana legally in Illinois as of Jan. 1. 

Lawyer Benjamin Wesselschmidt explains the new recreational cannabis law at the St. Clair County Country Club on Nov. 21. Many employers are re-thinking their drug testing policies since recreational marijuana will be legal on Jan. 1, 2020.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Ahead of the new year, local businesses and employers across Illinois are trying to determine how legal recreational marijuana will impact them. 

The law change, which came only six months ago, is forcing many employers to rethink how their workplaces handle drug policy and testing.

A worker trims marijuana plants in Ascend Illinois' growing facility in Barry, IL.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

On the final Politically Speaking roundup show of 2019, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue and Jason Rosenbaum look at some of the headlines that made an impact in the waning days of the year.

O’Donoghue talked with St. Louis Public Radio reporter Eric Schmid about impending legalization of marijuana in Illinois. It’s a move that will have a profound impact on towns in the Metro East — and on neighboring states like Missouri.

Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky adresses the council on Dec. 17, before they vote to allow cannabis sales in the community. The council voted 7-3 to allow cannabis related businesses to open in the community.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — The city council voted 7-3 Tuesday night to allow cannabis-related businesses to come to the city. Aldermen made the decision quickly with almost no debate on the issue.

Fairview Heights joins five other Metro East communities that will allow cannabis sales next year when recreational marijuana use for adults is legal.

Cannabis plants grow inside Ascend Illinois indoor facility in Barry, IL. Ascend owns two existing medical dispensaries and plans to open two additional recreational dispensaries early next year.
File Photo | Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

Updated at 8:15 p.m., Dec. 17:

By a vote of 7-3, the Fairview Heights City Council voted to allow and tax recreational cannabis sales in the city.

Original story from 8:30 a.m., Dec. 17:

FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — The city council will decide if it wants to allow and tax recreational cannabis sales in the community at its meeting on Tuesday night. 

Fairview Heights finds itself facing a decision similar to the one other Metro East communities did after Illinois state legislators voted to allow recreational marijuana use for people 21 and older starting Jan. 1.

The House Of Miles East St. Louis is the focal point of a new tour of some of the city's cultural landmarks. It's listed as an Airbnb "Experience." Organizers hope the tour brings in outside money to the city.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

EAST ST. LOUIS — A new weekly tour in the city aims to bring its cultural and historical ties to the fine arts to life. 

Starting Friday, up to 10 participants move through three well-known establishments in East St. Louis, with Miles Davis’ childhood home as the focal point. The Historic Jazz and Poetry Excursion starts at the Culture Cafe restaurant, then heads to House of Miles East St. Louis and finishes at the Local Legends Listening Lounge.  

As medical marijuana sales start in Missouri in 2020, local companies see potential new clients in the companies that are recieving the medical program's first licenses.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Local companies see business opportunities as medical cannabis sales begin in Missouri in 2020. They’re not the companies that have applied for one of the initial licenses from the state but those that may offer services to those eventual license holders. 

“A lot of people focus too much on the dispensaries, cultivators and manufacturers, when there are so many other opportunities out there as well,” said Alexander Ivy, vice president and director of accounts for Peacemaker Defense Group

According to Washington University's Center for Social Development's latest study, predominantly black residents and low-income communities in the region face barriers in casting their ballots.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — People who want to run as a Democrat or Republican in the November 2020 elections had until the end of the day Monday to file their paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Elections. 

The filing deadline is for seats in the Illinois General Assembly and Congress and only applies to people who want to represent one of the two leading parties. Independent and third-party candidates have until June 22, 2020, to file their paperwork.  

The Green Solution in Sauget will now be able to sell marijuana to recreational users. The dispensary has not said when it will start recreational sales.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Illinois becomes the 11th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on Jan. 1, six years after Colorado started to allow recreational sales. The cannabis industry grew rapidly in that time, and so did claims about the plant’s properties and effects.

Joseph DiVerdi doesn’t believe those assertions. He should know. DiVerdi is a cannabis researcher and chemistry professor at Colorado State University.

“The hype totally outstripes knowledge,” he said. “The lack of hard data has permitted opinion to run wild and rampant. There are so many things attributed to the cannabis plant that are far beyond what might be considered reasonable.” 

Households put up signs to encourage Census participation in 2010. The 2020 census will differ from ones in the past because it will be conducted almost entirely online.
U.S. Census Bureau

BELLEVILLE — The outcome of the 2020 census will have lasting implications for people and communities in Illinois and across the U.S. 

Mainly, the once-a-decade headcount provides a framework for how more than $1.5 trillion in federal money is distributed to states every year. The census begins on April 1.

The Green Solution in Sauget will now be able to sell marijuana to recreational users. The dispensary has not said when it will start recreational sales.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

EDWARDSVILLE — Metro East cities that want to allow cannabis-related businesses are starting to decide where these establishments can set up shop in their communities.

The Edwardsville City Council made its decision Tuesday night when it voted 7-0 to establish new zoning rules and other restrictions for cannabis businesses that may come to the city. 

A portion of the Goshen Trail expansion during construction in May 2019. The new trail opens Nov 15.
MCT Trails via Facebook

O’FALLON, Ill. — Madison County Transit will unveil the newest addition to its vast 130-mile trail network on Saturday. 

The expansion takes the existing Goshen Trail and extends it seven miles, from Troy to O’Fallon. It’s the first time the Madison County Transit, or MCT, trail system extends into St. Clair County.

The intersection of Collinsville and St. Louis Avenues in East St. Louis is where a mob of white rioters first gathered before they rampaged through the city, seeking out and killing black residents.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — The 2020 census headcount will have wide-ranging implications for the state of Illinois and communities in the Metro East. The state could lose congressional seats and federal money, and some downstate cities could lose their home-rule status after the decennial headcount, which begins in April.

These high stakes spurred Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritkzer and the state Legislature to dedicate $29 million to counting hard-to-reach communities; $20 million is for grants that go to 30 local community organizations across the state tasked with ensuring accurate counts. 

An airforce member recieves instructions on a drug test. After January 1st, Illinois employers cannot simply rely on a drug test to ensure drug free work environments.
Ashley Gardner | Shaw Air Force Base

BELLEVILLE — Recreational cannabis will be legal in Illinois in less than two months, and some employers are scrambling to understand what legalization will mean for their drug-free policies. 

Specifically, the new law pits an employee’s right to use marijuana recreationally on their own time against an employer’s ability to enforce drug-free policies under Illinois’ Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act

Paula and Tom Haniszewski's house on South Charles Street in Belleville on Oct 30. Their home was built in 1880.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Emily Smith is fascinated by older homes. It’s an interest she’s had since she was a child. As an 8-year-old, she carried around a disposable camera in her backpack just to snap pictures of buildings she liked.

“I’ve always had a fascination with old homes and their character, and the craftsmanship and how it’s like basically living in a piece of art,” she said. 

Henry Ballerd, 70, tries on a jacket at a veterans stand down in East St. Louis on Oct. 29. The East St. Louisan served in Vietnam in the Navy.
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

EAST ST. LOUIS — The Clyde C. Jordan Senior Center buzzed with activity as nearly 100 veterans bounced between tables offering free goods and services such as clothes, legal and medical advice and even haircuts.

The event is called a stand down — wartime terminology for when troops on the front line are moved back to rest and recharge, said event organizer Moses Holman. 

A pile of toxic materials from a previous EPA collection event. Illinois EPA will collect these kinds of items from Metro East residents in Edwardsville on Oct. 26.
Environmental Protection Agency

EDWARDSVILLE — The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will collect toxic and hazardous waste from Metro East residents this weekend. The agency, along with Madison County Planning and Development, will host a cleanup event at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Saturday. 

Residents can dispose of any toxic chemicals they may have in a safe and environmentally friendly way, said David Saladino, Illinois EPA environmental protection specialist.

Reginald Petty poses for a portrait at his home in East St. Louis on Oct. 14, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

EAST ST. LOUIS — Reginald Petty knows the stereotypes of East St. Louis well. A native of the city, he has heard the way many people talk about it.

“'Oh, it’s a high crime rate,'” he said. “'Don’t go to East St. Louis. Be careful.'”

He admits the city has its issues but said crime rates don’t define the city. Petty prefers to focus on East St. Louis’ positive narratives as a city rich with black cultural heritage. After all, he says, the “City of Champions” produced famous athletes, musicians and other celebrities

The Missouri Department of Transportation says commuters should expect delays along interstates 44, 70 and 270.
FLICKR | ALEXANDER SVENSSON

Updated Jan. 13 with exact closure dates

An IDOT spokesperson told St. Louis Public Radio the department expects the section of Interstate 255 between Collinsville Road and Interstate 64 will close on Feb. 1, 2020 and will re-open in June. The second section, from I-64 to Illinois Route 15, will close in June. IDOT expects the entire roadway will be open by Thanksgiving.

Original story from Oct. 22:

BELLEVILLE — The Illinois Department of Transportation will completely close a seven-mile stretch of Interstate 255 early next year. 

The major rehabilitation project spans Illinois Route 15 to Collinsville Road and includes resurfacing, significant bridge repairs and other safety improvements.

The intersection of Collinsville and St. Louis Avenues in East St. Louis is where a mob of white rioters first gathered before they rampaged through the city, seeking out and killing black residents.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Illinois’ slow but steady population decline could jeopardize the home rule status some Metro East cities enjoy.

Home rule grants cities broad taxing and regulatory powers, making it easier to quickly tackle local issues and fund projects and services. Status is automatically granted to any Illinois city with more than 25,000 residents. Towns can also achieve home rule through a referendum, as Fairview Heights did. 

Workers for the Environmental Protection Agency collect a water sample. SIUE will investigate contaminants in regional water with a grant from the agency.
Environmental Protection Agency

BELLEVILLE — Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will research water quality in the region with a $100,000 educational grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The grant provides funds to train undergraduate students in environmental sampling and analysis over the next two years. The funds will also support teaching the students to communicate the results of their work to the public. Students will be guided by faculty, but they’ll be conducting the day-to-day work, said Kevin Tucker, an assistant professor of chemistry.

Jessica Kopecky primes one portion of a wall before adding color to it on Sept. 28, 2019. This is the fourth outdoor mural the Wisconsin native will complete.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Paint-splashed walls of four downtown buildings are bringing the first elements of a mural project in the city closer to fruition.

Over the next few weeks, artists from around the country will arrive in Belleville and complete large and colorful paintings around the community.

“It’s taking Belleville from a bedroom community, sleepy suburb and making it its own destination,” said Emily Smith, a Belleville Mural Project committee member. 

The St. Louis Cardinals clinched the National League Central Division on Sunday and will face the Braves in Atlanta on Thursday in their first postseason game in four years.
5 On Your Side

Updated at 6:45 p.m., Sept. 29 with comments from the team

The St. Louis Cardinals are division champions for the first time since 2015. 

The team walloped the Chicago Cubs 9-0 in front of a hometown crowd at Busch Stadium on Sunday, clinching their spot atop the National League Central Division. Milwaukee’s consecutive losses to the Colorado Rockies on Saturday and Sunday kept the Brewers two games behind St. Louis in the race for the title.

The Cardinals will open the playoffs Thursday in Atlanta against the Braves.

Members of the Scott Air Force Base Key Spouse Group at a luncheon on the military base on June 10, 2019. A new law in Illinois will make transfering professional licenses to Illinois easier for military spouses.
Solomon Cook | Scott Air Force Base

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE — A new law in Illinois aims to help members of the military and their spouses find solid employment faster.

The bill, signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in early August, offers service members and their partners reciprocity for professional licenses obtained in other states or jurisdictions, essentially letting them transfer an existing license to the state.

Pages