Will Wisconsin be negatively impacted by cannabis legalization in Illinois?

Illinois' cannabis rules allow local consumers aged 21 and older to purchase a maximum of 30 grams of cannabis and no more than five grams of concentrate

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Will Wisconsin be negatively impacted by cannabis legalization in Illinois?

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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While Wisconsin may not be turning a shade of green anytime soon, the landscape that surrounds it is gradually bursting into color.

Recreational cannabis legalization recently swept across Wisconsin’s neighboring state Illinois, making it the 11th U.S State to legalize the plant for adult use. Illinois is expected to launch its recreational cannabis market by this time next year. Being surrounded by legal weed is sure to have an impact on the Democratic State of Wisconsin, where supporters of legalization believe that prohibition could do more harm than good.

A recreational cannabis bill got the approval of the Illinois State Senate on Friday, May 31. Governor J.B Pritzker initiated the “Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act,” which was passed by the State House of Representatives.

“The path forward for Illinois is clear: We need to legalize [cannabis],” reads an excerpt from Pritzker’s political program. “As governor, I am ready to stand with leaders, communities, and families across our state to legalize marijuana and move our state forward.”

Penalties for cannabis possession in border communities are steep

Wisconsinites may be lured to Illinois for the attractive regulations. Based on Illinois’ cannabis rules, local consumers aged 21 and older are now legally allowed to purchase a maximum of 30 grams of cannabis and no more than five grams of concentrate.

For non-residents, the purchase limit is less. Nonetheless, purchases can be made with a valid form of identification. Just because Wisconsinites can simply pop over to Illinois to buy some bud, it doesn’t mean that they will get away with using cannabis in the state’s border communities, however. A first time offender will be slammed with a $300 fine, while in nearby Janesville, the penalty could exceed $500.

Economy could take a hit as a result of Illinois’ cannabis legalization

Rep. Melissa Sargent is a Democrat who represents the 48th Wisconsin State Assembly inclusive of Maple Bluff, and the eastern and northern sides of Madison city. Sargent claims that, due to cannabis legalization unfurling throughout Illinois, Wisconsin’s CBD business owners and hemp farmers are seeking out opportunities in the THC segment of the legal cannabis industry instead.

Since cannabis’ primary psychoactive cannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is not yet legal in Wisconsin, local hemp farmers who cultivate crops rich in the plant’s non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD (cannabidiol) may soon start seeking out opportunities across the border. Sargent says that this will cause the state’s revenue to plummet. Tourism is also likely to be impacted by the prohibition that permeates Wisconsin and the cannabis reform that’s blossoming in bordering Illinois.

“A lot of our Wisconsin neighbors, people who I’ve talked to on this very street are already planning trips down to Illinois in [January] when their bill actually becomes law,” said Sargent.

Wisconsin not likely to legalize cannabis anytime soon

A total of 33 U.S. states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes and 11 for recreational use. With stats like these, it’s hard to deny the rapid growth of the legal weed market in the U.S. Wisconsin doesn’t plan on joining the ever-growing list of cannabis-friendly states, despite the fact that Sargent’s legalization efforts have been going strong since 2014. Sargent intends on introducing a fresh bill to legalize cannabis in Wisconsin later this year.

Even though pot is forbidden in Wisconsin, Sargent thinks that locals will continue to make the journey across the border to buy their bud. That is, unless state lawmakers come to the realization that the grass is greener on the other side.