There, not here: How new marijuana laws in Illinois may affect Indiana border counties


GIBSON COUNTY, In. (WEHT) — In January, Illinois will become the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana.

That means Indiana now has states to the north and west that have changed their laws.

Under the new Illinois law, Illinois residents can buy 30 grams of raw cannabis — or about one ounce — cannabis-infused products with no more than 500 milligrams of THC and five grams of concentrated cannabis product. Anyone from out of state can buy half that.

However, even if you are not caught with it in your possession, you can still be arrested.

“I think we would be naive to think there’s not going to be an increase,” said Gibson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Cochren.

As Illinois prepares to legalize recreational marijuana, prosecutors and law enforcement discuss how it could change Indiana border counties.

“I think it would be naive to think there’s not going to be folks driving on State 64 over to Illinois and buying marijuana, if it’s legal, and coming back here.”

That means the purchase may be legal, but as soon as you cross state lines, the product no longer is.

“If you’re coming from Illinois into Indiana and you have marijuana that you’ve been smoking or you have some on you, it’s going to be considered a criminal act here in the state of Indiana,” said ISP Sgt. Kim Riley.

But even if you are not caught in possession of marijuana, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook if you are involved in a crash.

“You will be required to take a blood draw — and if it comes back with marijuana in your system, you very well could be arrested,” said Riley.

Marijuana can stay in your system for weeks. That means you could ingest it in Illinois, but still be arrested weeks later in Indiana. That could mean felony charges on your record.

“We don’t have to determine, we don’t have to prove where it was ingested. Only that it was in their system.”

At least one border county prosecutor. Ryan Mears in Marion County, has decided not to prosecute misdemeanor marijuana possession of more than one gram.

But as of now, that is not the case here in either Gibson or Posey counties.

“We’re not treating it any differently,” said Cochren. “What I think you’ll find an increase in law enforcement though, is, really we need to pay attention to the operating while under the influence.”

Right now in Indiana, if someone is caught with less than 30 grams, it’s a misdemeanor charge. If you carry more than that, it’s a felony.

(This story was originally published on December 12, 2019)

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