Government

Illinois' legal marijuana having little to no impact in Iowa, authorities say

A marijuana plant grows at the Compassionate Care Foundation's grow house in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. (Associated Press
A marijuana plant grows at the Compassionate Care Foundation’s grow house in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. (Associated Press archives)

It’s been nearly two months since the sale of recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois, and Iowa law enforcement agencies said the impact in the cities and counties along the border has been minimal.

Illinois’ law legalizing recreational marijuana went into effect Jan. 1. Illinois residents can buy up to 30 grams of marijuana, while out-of-state visitors are capped at 15 grams.

In Iowa, one of the biggest concerns was that there might be a spike in drivers under the influence here.

“Smoking marijuana or consuming marijuana products impairs judgment and decision-making, and that can be dangerous, especially when someone is getting behind the wheel of a car. Then, they’re not only endangering themselves, but every other driver on the road as well,” Iowa State Patrol Trooper Dan Loussaert told The Gazette a few days before the law went into effect.

Dubuque County Sheriff Joseph Kennedy said that so far, initial concerns have not come to fruition.

“Right now, we have not seen a substantial increase in marijuana-related arrests or OWIs,” he said. “I think one of the reasons for that is that the nearest dispensary to us is in either Milan or Rockford, and that’s a good 80 to 90 miles away.”

Supply also has been an issue for the Illinois dispensaries, said Dubuque Police Chief Mark Dalsing.

“From what I’m hearing, the dispensaries are having a hard time keeping up with demand,” he said. “So that’s kind of a long drive to make only to find out the dispensary is out of product.”

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Additionally, the chief said, Illinois caps resident and out-of-state purchases at relatively small amounts not suitable for profitable distribution.

At this point, Davenport Police Chief Paul Sikorski said, local street dealers are more of a concern.

“The nearest dispensary is probably 60 miles from here,” he said. “That’s a long way to go when we still have local dealers who are selling product at cheaper prices because they’re not tacking on taxes.”

Iowa law permits medical marijuana for qualified patients, but allows cannabis — or CBD — products only with a very low level of THC, the compound that produces a high.

Scott County Sheriff Tim Lane said deputies “have confiscated small amounts from Illinois sales in the last few weeks … (and) our OWI arrests for marijuana started increasing before the legalization.”

But, he added, “it’s still too early to make a diagnosis” as to what effect Illinois’ legal weed might have in Iowa.

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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