If you want a bottle of booze in downstate Albion, you have to drive out of town.
But the Edwards County town of less than 2,000 residents is the site of a huge medical marijuana farm.
The seemingly contradictory situation has led some in town to declare Albion “high and dry.”
And a local shop has sold dozens of T-shirts with the pithy phrase.
“The high is we’re growing marijuana here in Albion,” Ald. Arrol Stewart said with a laugh. “The dry is two of the convenience stores have applied for a package liquor license and they were turned down. The city council voted against it.”
“It’s our own little protest,” said Cheryl Taylor, one of the owners of TJ Marche, the shop that’s making and selling the T-shirts.
Albion is the county seat of Edwards County, which has been dry since Prohibition, Albion Mayor Steve McMahel said.
Two years ago, a vote to allow liquor licenses passed by just 10 votes, he said.
The town issued three liquor licenses to the American Legion Post, the Moose Lodge and the VFW post. The fraternal clubs had been selling liquor without a license “forever,” one resident said.
But the licenses were needed to get video gambling, the mayor said.
When the convenience stores recently requested permits to sell package liquor, the city council voted against it, the mayor said.
The majority of aldermen, he said, “didn’t think it was in the best interest in the city.”
Stewart wasn’t one of them. He hoped liquor sales would bring tax revenue to the town. Residents now drive about 10 miles away to buy their booze.
“A small town has so much trouble surviving these days,” resident and advocate Thoma Smith said. “Why don’t we get the benefit of the tax dollars from selling liquor?”
The issue of packaged goods has become more controversial than the establishment of the medical marijuana farm operated by Ataraxia. It began growing its plants in July.
“The medical marijuana facility is just jobs, and you can’t go out there and buy anything,” the mayor said, adding that the medicinal product “won’t even be sold here in this county.”
Stewart said people in town understand that the marijuana is for medical purposes. “We didn’t have any dissension about marijuana here. Just the alcohol,” he said.
Though the tongue-in-cheek tees have generated a buzz, they won’t be in stock forever.
Taylor said the shop has done its last printing of the $12 shirts, which former Albion residents have ordered from around the country.
“How Disney puts their movies in the vault,” she said. “We’re finally putting those in the vault.”