Friday, December 20, 2019

Police get ready for legal marijuana right next door

From The Journal

Effective Jan. 1, people age 21 or older will be allowed to purchase and consume marijuana in Illinois for recreational purposes.

GENOA CITY — Marijuana legalization begins Jan. 1 in Illinois, and police departments along the state line are expressing concern about having marijuana use so close to home.
Some police departments are issuing warnings that they will show no leniency toward anyone found with marijuana north of the border in Wisconsin.
Others acknowledge a sense of uncertainty about how legal marijuana in Illinois will affect law enforcement in the region.
I am a bit concerned,” Town of Linn Police Chief James Bushey said. “Not knowing how to gauge what kinds of increase we might see is what I am more interested to know.”
The state of Illinois passed a law earlier this year allowing consumers aged 21 and older to buy marijuana for recreational use from licensed sellers starting on Jan. 1.
The dramatic change in state law is expected to spawn marijuana retail outlets similar to those doing business in California, Colorado and other states that have legalized pot.
But in Wisconsin, where marijuana remains illegal, pot users can face arrest and prosecution for either possession or for driving under the influence of marijuana.
The situation between two neighboring states poses an especially challenging dynamic in the Lake Geneva region, with two vastly different cultures for marijuana use co-existing side by side.
Walworth County Sheriff Kurt Picknell knows how his agency will respond.
Sheriff’s deputies, Picknell said, will follow Wisconsin state law making it illegal for someone to carry marijuana across the state line.
We continue to enforce the laws of the state of Wisconsin,” Picknell said.
As the Jan. 1 date approaches for marijuana to become legal in Illinois, the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department has issued a statement reaffirming that Wisconsin state laws and Kenosha’s local ordinances have not changed — and will still be enforced.
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said his deputies will do their best to educate civilians, especially when it comes to bringing weed from Illinois into the Badger State.
Our deputies will continue their duties educating people about the laws of controlled substances and the dangers of driving under the influence,” Beth said. “We will still enforce Wisconsin law, even though the substance was legally purchased in Illinois.”
Marijuana purchased legally in Illinois is still illegal in Wisconsin.
In the state line border community of Genoa City, every police officer has been trained to recognize a motorist who is impaired by substances other than alcohol.
Genoa City Police Chief Joseph Balog said he does not anticipate a surge in new charges stemming from Illinois marijuana. But whatever happens, Balog said, his officers will handle those drivers the same as drunken drivers.
Most of our possession charges,” he said, “stem from either traffic stops for a traffic violation or after someone calls 911 for a domestic or a disturbance.”
Bushey said the town of Linn typically records five to 10 citations a year for marijuana-related offenses. Much like Genoa City, Bushey said, most such cases result from an officer making a traffic stop — and smelling the familiar odor of marijuana smoke.
Bloomfield Police Chief Steve Cole could not be reached for comment, but village trustee Susan Bernstein said she anticipates the village will face a challenge in dealing with Illinois’ new marijuana culture.
Balog’s advice for anyone planning to cross the border for legal marijuana in Illinois is the same he offers anyone heading out for a couple of alcoholic cocktails.
Have a designated driver,” he said. “And do not bring back to our state anything that can get you into trouble.”

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