CHARLESTON, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV)– A half dozen speakers gathered at Eastern Illinois University Monday to discuss cannabis from a variety of different perspectives. 

Those on hand– which included college professors from different fields, and the Coles County State Attorney– talked about the history of the drug, it’s impact on the human body and what has changed since it was legalized in the state back in 2019. 

Daniel Douglas, the program coordinator for the Eastern Illinois Academy of Lifelong Learning who helped organize the event, said the first discussions on putting a symposium like this together started back in early 2023.

“Cannabis is such a hot button issue, yet it’s not so taboo that it’s unrelatable for the majority of people. Even those people who may have negative sentiments about cannabis, they still have questions about it that they want answered. And this is a good forum for them to be able to do that,” he said. 

Jesse Danley, the Coles County State Attorney, said he was contacted about six months ago to take part– and he spoke in detail about some of the changes his office has seen from a legal standpoint since possession of smaller amounts was decriminalized. He said there has been an uptick in the county of more serious infractions– but he couldn’t say at this point if it was directly connected to legalization of the drug. 

“We [stopped prosecuting] the smaller recreation amounts, decriminalized them, I have seen in Coles County an uptick in drug sales. I was very clear it’s just an observation, it’s not a study, there’s a lot of reasons that could be,” he said. 

He also mentioned the decision allowed them to focus resources on other needs, but he still believes there are residents who don’t fully understand the law– and he thinks forums like this are a perfect place to become more educated.

“I guess just be informed. If it affects, and it’s that important to us that we want to yell and scream, read up and do your homework. Form an opinion that’s based on fact and not Tiktok, you know what I mean? Somebody that’s actually done a study and researched, and then if you disagree with them, research and find another answer,” Danley said. 

Danley was very happy to take part in an “educated discussion” on the topic, and Douglas said  that was the focus to provide this event for both residents and students around the area/

“Bringing in academic perspectives that had unique insight into how their field speaks to issues that surround cannabis was an important thing to do in enriching the community,” he said. 

 The symposium was organized by the EIU Academy of Lifelong learning, which is housed under the school of extended learning. They provide a platform for community events throughout the year– and more information on upcoming plans can be found here.