Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio

Eric Schmid

Metro East Reporter

Eric Schmid covers the Metro East area in Illinois for St. Louis Public Radio. He joins the news team as its first Report for America corps member and is tasked with expanding KWMU's coverage east from the Mississippi. Before joining St. Louis Public Radio, Eric held competitive internships at Fox News Channel, NPR-affiliate WSHU Public Radio and AccuWeather. As a news fellow at WSHU's Long Island Bureau, he covered governments and environmental issues as well as other general assignments. Eric grew up in Northern Colorado but attended Stony Brook University, in New York where he earned his degree in journalism in 2018. He is an expert skier, avid reader and lifelong musician-he plays saxophone and clarinet.

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Voting election illustration
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — The Illinois primary election is moving forward as planned on Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said during a press conference on Thursday.

“Free and open elections are the structural support of our democracy,” he said.

Concern about the novel coronavirus has postponed the Louisiana primary, but in a joint statement, officials from Illinois, Ohio, Arizona and Florida affirmed their primaries would go on as planned. 

The U.S. Census Bureau identifies places that it expects will be hard-to-count ahead of each survey. In the 2020 count, all of those locations in the Metro East are in or around East St. Louis.
U.S. Census Bureau

Updated at 11:50 a.m. on March 12 with information about census letters

Most of the country will get letters from the U.S. Census Bureau starting March 12. 

The letters ask for households to respond to the census, which happens every 10 years and is mandated by the Constitution. It counts the total number of people in the country and where they currently live on April 1. 

Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville sold $5 million of recreational marijuana in January. The dispensary accounted for 13.6% of sales in Illinois.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — The city council on Tuesday voted 8-3 to approve zoning regulations for marijuana businesses that want to come to the community.

This is the third, and final, piece of legislation the city had to pass before a dispensary would be able to open in the city. The council previously passed ordinances that allowed marijuana sales and restricted the number to just one single dispensary

Census workers in the field will have clear identification showing they work for the U.S. Department of Commerce.
U.S. Census Bureau

The St. Louis-area census office needs several hundred more people to apply to be census takers. The local office wants at least 13,000 applicants, and it has reached around 90% of that target, said Linda Gladden, a media specialist with the bureau.

The St. Louis office is responsible for counts in the city as well as St. Louis, St. Charles and Jefferson counties.

The available positions are for part-time census takers — the people who will go to homes that don’t submit an initial response online, by mail or by phone. The census bureau tries to place workers in neighborhoods where they live or that they know well, Gladden said.

Other regional offices in Kansas City, Springfield, Missouri, and Springfield, Illinois, have also hired the majority of the enumerators they need, Gladden said.

The Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church in Brooklyn, Illinois, on Feb. 26, 2020. The church is one of two verified Underground Railroad locations in the Metro East. 02 26 2020
Eric Schmid | St Louis Public Radio

BROOKLYN — On the outskirts of this St. Clair County village, a small green sign reveals how many people live there — about 750. The small community is about five square blocks and sits a few thousand feet from the Mississippi River. 

Yet for a village with less than 1,000 residents, there are 12 churches. The oldest, the Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church, was established in 1825 as a Methodist church. It stands apart for its role in the Underground Railroad, helping slaves in Missouri escape to freedom.

The census will only ask if respondents are 'male' or 'female.' That leaves out a growing number of people who identify outside of that gender binary.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — The success of the 2020 census will largely depend on people answering the survey themselves, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That way, the bureau can dedicate fewer resources to finding and counting people.

Bureau officials have identified a number of factors that result in low self-response rates. These include areas with more minority residents, low-income households, frequent movers, renters and many other factors.

The census will only ask if respondents are 'male' or 'female.' That leaves out a growing number of people who identify outside of that gender binary.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

BELLEVILLE — Communities across the Metro East are ramping up their efforts to get an accurate count when the U.S. Census Bureau begins collecting responses in less than two months. 

The once-a-decade headcount determines congressional representation and how billions of dollars in federal and state funding is distributed. Locally, critical revenue for cities and some communities' home rule status are at stake.

Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville sold $5 million of recreational marijuana in January. The dispensary accounted for 13.6% of sales in Illinois.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 3:10 p.m., Feb. 12, with comments from Collinsville's mayor

COLLINSVILLE — Illinois Supply and Provisions recorded $5 million in sales of recreational marijuana in the first month of the year, city officials announced Tuesday. 

The preliminary figures come after a strong month of sales across the whole state. Illinois sold nearly $40 million of legal marijuana in January alone. 

Hundreds of people line up outside of Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville on January 1, 2020 to legally buy recreational marijuana for the first time in Illinois.
Derik Holtmann | Belleville News-Democrat

COLLINSVILLE — The first month of recreational marijuana sales at Illinois Supply and Provisions brought hordes of people and their vehicles to a store that didn’t have enough parking for them. 

The dispensary reserved its 45-space parking lot for medical patients and handicapped recreational customers. A maze of metal barriers occupied the spaces directly in front of the store to contain crowds of people wanting to buy recreational cannabis. 

Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky addresses 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 nine to one on Tuesday to approve regulations for recreational marijuana businesses that want to open in the community. 

The ordinance specifies which kind of businesses can open in Fairview Heights — whether that be a dispensary, cultivator, craft grower or other facility. 

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 Feb. 3 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?

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

BELLEVILLE — Illinois’ recreational cannabis industry is off to a strong start. 

Sales of recreational marijuana totaled $39.2 million in January, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced Monday. 

In the 31 days after recreational marijuana became legal in the state, consumers bought almost one million individual cannabis products. Illinois residents accounted for the majority of transactions, buying $30.6 million of legal marijuana. Out-of-state residents bought $8.6 million.

Students walk through the campus of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville in the Spring of 2017.
SIUE

EDWARDSVILLE — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker released the first 10% of $105 million in funding for a new health sciences building on the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville campus Thursday.

The initial $10.5 million pays for the planning and design of the new building, which will house nursing, pharmacy, public health, social work and the many other health science programs at the university. 

The Illinois Housing Development Authority funded 172 supportive housing units for vulnerable populations. 22 of them are in Collinsville and will serve veterans in the area.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

COLLINSVILLE — The Illinois Housing Development Authority has dedicated nearly $43 million to create permanent supportive housing for vulnerable populations in the state. It’s the sixth time the state has funded such projects. 

The money will help create, rehab or restore 172 affordable housing units for low-income individuals or families and other groups, said Christine Moran, IDHA’s director of multifamily financing.

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. 

Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville sold $5 million of recreational marijuana in January. The dispensary accounted for 13.6% of sales in Illinois.
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.

Cannabis flower grows at a recreational grow facility in Illinois. Sales of recreational marijuana started Illinois Jan 1.
File Photo | 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.
File Photo | 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 addresses 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.  

Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville sold $5 million of recreational marijuana in January. The dispensary accounted for 13.6% of sales in Illinois.
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.

Illinois Supply and Provisions in Collinsville sold $5 million of recreational marijuana in January. The dispensary accounted for 13.6% of sales in Illinois.
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. 

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