Recreational marijuana soon to be legal in 2 states bordering Indiana

(WTHR file photo)
Illinois Legalizes Recreational Marijuana
Marijuana laws

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Recreational marijuana will soon be legal in Illinois and Michigan.

Tuesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that allows recreational use starting Jan. 1, 2020, making it the 11th state to fully legalize pot.

Michigan is also expected to have its new rules in place by the first of year, if not before then.

Indiana State Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) told Eyewitness News he welcomed the changes.

"It just puts more pressure on Indiana to start giving this the attention it deserves," Lucas said.

Lucas has repeatedly introduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana, but it's gone nowhere. Eyewitness News joined him as he toured a cultivation center and a dispensary in Illinois in late 2017.

The state rep wanted to see how the operation worked from start to finish. At the time, Illinois had one of the most restrictive and highly regulated medical marijuana programs in the country.

But come January, Illinois will allow recreational use (including sales, possession and consumption) for adults 21 and older, for Illinois residents and visitors. Deep in debt, Illinois is ultimately expected to rake in $500 million a year in taxes by legalizing marijuana, a windfall Lucas shrugs off.

"Financial incentives are at the bottom of my list," he said. "I'm tackling this because it's the right thing to do."

He said it's the right thing for those who've benefited from marijuana and the right thing for those arrested for using it.

According to NORML, marijuana arrests in Indiana in 2016 topped 10,000, with nearly 9,000 of those arrests for possession (the remainder for sales.)

Lucas said those numbers are likely to go up once Hoosiers start crossing the border, with some of them bringing cannabis home.

"Any intellectually honest person knows that's going to happen," Lucas said. "But worse than that people are going to go across the lines in two states now and even if they do something legal in our border states they will come back and still have THC in their system."

THC is the chemical that makes people feel high. It can be detected in a drug test for a few days to several weeks. That worries Lucas.

"I'm a small business owner and you can't find enough workers the way it is," he said. "Dealing with THC in the blood test to me creates more problems than it solves."

Lucas said while he plans to introduce more bills decriminalizing marijuana in the next session, he knows it's still an uphill battle.

Asked whether the governor's position on the issue had changed, a spokesperson said no, quoting the governor as saying "until the federal law changes. I would welcome any medical research. We'd be happy to be a partner in that effort so that we are looking at facts."

As for whether recreational use in Illinois and Michigan would change enforcement at the Indiana state line?

Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine indicated "no."

"We will still operate status quo as we always have. If we come across someone in possession, it's still illegal," Perrine added.

Perrine said while they wouldn't be stepping up patrols or anything like that, "if it becomes a problem we'll address it...just because it's legal to buy and use (across the border) doesn't mean you can bring it into Indiana."

He did say the process of determining whether someone was driving under the influence of alcohol or marijuana was different.

That's why ISP has drug recognition experts trained to do more of a medical exam than sobriety test to determine if someone is impaired due to marijuana versus alcohol.

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