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Journal Times editorial — Marijuana: Legal in Illinois, still illegal here
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Journal Times editorial — Marijuana: Legal in Illinois, still illegal here

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They’re setting up high-end boutique pot shops just across the border as Illinois on Jan. 1 joins the growing ranks of states with legalized marijuana for recreational purposes.

We have no doubt that some Wisconsinites will pound down Interstate 94 for a little recreational outing of their own to legally purchase marijuana.

That may not be a road you want to go down.

Yes, Badger State residents who are 21 years old or older can make legal purchases in Illinois. But no, you cannot consume it in public. As the spokesman for Green Thumb Industries, which is setting up a chain of five marijuana dispensaries, told a Lee Newspaper reporter this month: “Illinois does not allow public consumption. Not in parking lots, not in your car. No parks, no beach, no baseball games, no football games. Nowhere.”

So where do you go with your fresh pack of buds, joints or edibles?

“You have to get in your car and leave and consume in private,” the spokesman said.

And woe be it to you if you decide to go straight home to Wisconsin, where possession and/or sales are still illegal under the law and where Kenosha County deputies will be waiting with open arms and citation books.

“Our deputies will continue their duties educating people about the laws of controlled substances and the dangers of driving under the influence,” a Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department statement said.

That “education” could include a misdemeanor citation with the possibility of six months behind bars and a $1,000 fine or, for a second offense, a felony conviction with up to 3½ years in prison. You could lose your driver’s license and your car could be impounded.

But, wait, beyond that is Door No. 2, with more prizes. Across Wisconsin there were more than 17,000 arrests for marijuana possession last year and more than 1,800 arrests for marijuana sales, according to a Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism report in October. Together, they accounted for 61 percent of the state’s drug arrests.

Arrest and conviction records, the report said, “can make it harder to get jobs, professional licenses, financial aid for higher education and government assistance.”

Landlords can refuse to rent to you. Government subsidized housing can be denied because of a criminal conviction. College students can lose their eligibility for federal financial aid. And yes, while it is a gray area, prospective employers can skip your application if they determine a drug conviction is “substantially related” to the job.

It’s all waiting just down the highway in the Land of Lincoln. Just make sure you don’t bring home any souvenirs.

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