MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Despite dispensaries quickly popping up along Illinois’ northern border after that state legalized recreational marijuana almost a year ago, local law enforcement officials say they have not yet seen any major impacts in Wisconsin.
Officials with the Rock County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Janesville and Beloit said they have not seen any rise in marijuana possession charges this year — though they caution the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may cloud the data as it has drastically affected businesses and travel.
“It’s such an anomaly year that I don’t know if we can draw any conclusions as to the impact at this point, but we’ll keep an eye on it,” said Sgt. Mark Ratzlaff, who is in charge of Janesville Police Department’s Street Crimes Unit.
Recreational marijuana was officially legalized in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020, with dispensaries opening up soon after in Chicago, Rockford and South Beloit.
A 2017 National Bureau of Economic Research report on the spillover effects of recreational marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington on neighboring states found “a sharp increase in marijuana possession arrests in border counties” relative to non-border counties.
State and local officials said about a year ago they would monitor the drug, which remains illegal in Wisconsin, to see if any major effects are noticed. So far the impacts have been minimal, according to officials in several southern Wisconsin communities.
The Rock County Sheriff’s Office logged 200 arrests for possession of THC — the ingredient in cannabis that can produce a high — as of Dec. 21 this year, compared with 179 arrests in the same timeframe last year. In the same span in 2018, there were 246 such arrests.
Cmdr. Jude Maurer said arrests and citations fluctuate from year to year, and so far the department has