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How will Illinois marijuana law affect Wisconsin border cities?

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PLEASANT PRAIRIE (CBS 58) - Illinois is about to be the latest state to legalize recreational marijuana.

But will legal weed just over the border affect communities in Southeastern Wisconsin?

It’s not hard to imagine that when it becomes legal, people here will think about heading just over the border to buy marijuana.

But it’s still illegal in Wisconsin, which could mean more work for law enforcement, and a missed opportunity for the state.

Wisconsin State Trooper Michael Knowlton works the stretch of interstate leading to the Illinois border.  He says drugs have always been a part of the job.

Trooper Knowlton says Illinois’ new law won’t change how they handle drugs here.

“It’s not going to change how we do business here,” said Trooper Knowlton, “we’re going to do our job the same, we’ve always had a very strict drug enforcement in this agency and we’re going to continue to do the same.”

But with the drug about to be legal just down the road, Trooper Knowlton admits the job could change a little.

“Being this close, Illinois is less than a mile right there, it could just lead us to be even busier than we are now on the interstate with our traffic enforcement,” said Knowlton.

Kenosha Alderman Jan Michalski also sees a change coming, but a different kind.

“Maybe perhaps less marijuana arrests for dealing too, because why should somebody go and do something illegitimate here when they can go 3-4 miles down the road and buy it from a legitimate vendor,” said Michalski from Kenosha’s 3rd District.

He also says with neighbor states like Michigan and now Illinois gaining tax revenue from the drug, it’s only a matter of time before that spreads.

“The next thing you know it’ll be Minnesota and Iowa,” said Michalski, “once we’re surrounded by states that have legalized in some way marijuana, losing all that tax revenue to other states is going to force Wisconsin to make some sort of move.”

But for now Trooper Knowlton warns, if you do buy over the border, leave it there.

“If it’s legal there, you’re going to have to keep it there, but if you bring it here there are consequences that can happen,” said Knowlton.

The Illinois governor is expected to sign that bill. When he does, recreational marijuana will be legal starting January 1st 2020.

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