191204_MARYJANE

Construction is underway Monday at the site of a proposed recreational marijuana dispensary in South Beloit, Ill. Recreational use of marijuana will be legal in that state starting Jan. 1.

SOUTH BELOIT, Ill.

As a recreational marijuana dispensary under construction here prepares to open in January, authorities north of the border are concerned.

“I certainly would expect we’re going to have increased issues with marijuana consumption up here in Wisconsin and almost certainly an impact on highway safety,” Rock County Sheriff Troy Knudson said Monday.

The owners of the recreational marijuana dispensary hope to open in January, South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl said.

The store will be about one-half mile south of the state line and close to the Interstate 90/39 interchange with Illinois Highway 75—about a 20-minute drive from the south side of Janesville.

The applicant for the South Beloit store is Cresco Labs, which operates the MedMar medical marijuana dispensary in Rockford, Illinois. MedMar already has been approved for a license to sell recreational marijuana.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation confirmed to the Beloit Daily News that MedMar has applied for a license in South Beloit, but the license approval is pending.

Cresco looks for locations where it “can service unique pockets of adult-use cannabis consumers, and tourists coming in to Illinois are certainly one of those audiences,” company spokesman Jason Erkes told the Chicago Tribune in September.

Rehl said he has been assured the marijuana dispensary in South Beloit is going to be a reality and the goal is to have it open and operating in January.

“Sunny Side will be the name of the store,” Rehl said.

The Illinois law that goes into effect Jan. 1 will allow out-of-staters to possess marijuana in Illinois but in amounts half that of Illinoisans.

For example, Illinoisans age 21 and older will be allowed to possess 30 grams of cannabis flower, but a Wisconsinite would be allowed to possess only 15 grams, or about one-half ounce, according to news reports.

Of course, once the intoxicating weed crosses into Wisconsin, possessing it is illegal.

Knudson said other law enforcement leaders in Rock County share his concerns.

The sheriff’s office has worked with other agencies in the past to stop drug trafficking, “and I anticipate you’ll see more of those combined efforts in the future,” Knudson said.

He said he expects an increase in arrests.

Marijuana intoxication can’t be determined with a breath test such as the one used for alcohol, but some officers are trained to recognize the effects of a variety of drugs, including cannabis. The training is intense, difficult to get into and takes a long time to complete, Knudson said.

The sheriff’s office has two deputies trained as “drug recognition experts,” but Knudson said more are needed, and for the time being the county will have to rely on drug-recognition officers working with Janesville, Edgerton and other departments.

Rehl said the city of South Beloit anticipates receiving about $50,000 a year in tax revenue from the marijuana dispensary. However, a draft of the city budget for 2020 shows anticipated revenue from the cannabis sales tax at $1 million.

Illinois municipalities and counties are able to levy additional local sales taxes on cannabis sales. The Illinois law also imposes a 7% gross receipts tax on the sale of marijuana from cultivators to dispensaries, according to the Illinois Policy Institute. Sales tax in Illinois is 6.3% and the combined local and state sales tax in South Beloit is 7.25%.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has issued 30 licenses for recreational marijuana dispensaries so far.

State officials have said they will issue up to 75 licenses in the first year of legal recreational marijuana in Illinois.

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