What do Iowans Need to Know About Illinois Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

DES MOINES, Iowa --Starting January 1, Iowans will be able to go across the border to Illinois and buy recreational marijuana legally. However, when it comes to recreational marijuana in Iowa the rules haven’t changed.

“We'll get a lot of people who may travel from Colorado and other states where it's legal, have a medical marijuana card, and they say, ‘well it's legal in my state, am I legal here?' well you’re not. Don’t get behind the wheel when you've had too much of it, or any at all, and don’t bring it into the state of Iowa,” said Iowa State Patrol Spokesman Nathan Ludwig.

Illinois law allows non-residents 21 and older to purchase up to 15 grams of marijuana. Possession of that amount in Iowa would result in a misdemeanor, fines, and potential jail time. That being said, the Iowa State Patrol says they don't have any plans to increase their presence along the Illinois border.

“I think that's what people are thinking that we're going to up our patrols over by Illinois, but we're not. However, there's going to be a heightened awareness for what's out there because nationwide the trend is right now, we've seen OWIs that are drug related go up,” said Ludwig.

State Senator Joe Bolkcom says he'd like to see recreational marijuana legalized here in Iowa and believes Illinois will be taking advantage of the new market.

“Marijuana prohibition hasn’t worked and has hurt Iowa taxpayers and everyday Iowans. I think Illinois is going to experience a significant increase in customers from surrounding states including Iowa,” he said.

However, Bolkcom knows that a push to legalize marijuana here won’t happen overnight.

“I think that Iowa is going to take its own time in looking at this, which we should. I think there are opportunities to redirect the millions and millions of dollars we've spent to arrest, process, prosecute and imprison folks for non-violent offenses,” said Bolkcom.

Part of the Illinois bill expunges the records of anyone with a criminal record for buying or possessing 30 grams or less.

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