5 things for Indiana residents to know about buying legal weed in Illinois

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Hoosiers are welcome to buy legal, recreational marijuana in Illinois. The problem is bringing it home.

Plenty of people get caught doing so, said Indiana State Police spokesman Sgt. Todd Ringle. That can lead to a citation or arrest on our side of the border, where the drug is still prohibited.

Indiana is one of only 18 states where weed isn’t legalized or decriminalized in some form, leaving marijuana tourists vulnerable.

“One driving across the United States runs the gamut of these differing laws,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “(One risks) arrests and incarceration in some states and no penalties in others for engaging in the exact same activities.”Here are some things to know if you’re considering making the trip west.

You could face citation or arrest

In Indiana, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor. Ringle said most people caught returning from Illinois are cited and released, but arrest is possible, too.

Possession can ramp up to a Level 6 felony if the offender has a previous drug charge, or if they’re caught with 30 grams or more. Obtaining that much at an Illinois dispensary is impossible due to caps on how much out-of-state residents can buy.  “We want to make sure everyone knows that even though it’s legal to purchase in Illinois, it’s not OK to bring it back to Indiana,” Ringle said.

This isn't the time to ignore the speed limit

... But if you decide to cross the state border with marijuana, it's not a good idea to break other laws at the same time.

ISP Superintendent Doug Carter told WTHR last year that ISP doesn't go out of its way to catch those buying marijuana for personal use or to give “to a family member who might be dying of cancer and allow them to have peace.”

Ringle agreed, and said it's traffic laws that get people with marijuana in trouble.“Everyone we’re (catching) for possession of marijuana, they’re being stopped for traffic violations,” he said. “It blows my mind how many people are transporting illegal drugs, yet they disregard red lights or roll through stop signs or speed.”

The nearest dispensary to Evansville

The closest place to buy legal recreational and medical marijuana is a little more than an hour away from Evansville.Thrive Harrisburg is open seven days a week, with set hours for recreational sales. It caps out-of-state purchases at 250 milligrams for edibles, 15 grams of flower and 2.5 grams for concentrates.

There are places in Illinois to use it

Since Indiana residents can buy weed in Illinois but can’t legally bring it home, where are they supposed to use it?

That was a question with no clear answer when Illinois greenlit recreational marijuana in January 2020. At the time, many hotels said they’d still bar guests from ingesting the drug on their premises.Since then, several weed-friendly establishments have blossomed across the state. There are Airbnbs, as well as a bed-and-breakfast in Galena that boasts “The Potting Shed” – an insulated structure where visitors can freely imbibe in the company of WiFi, couches and a TV.

You aren’t the only one making the trip

If sales figures from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation are any indication, Indiana is missing out on a giant source of revenue.

After legalizing recreational marijuana in January 2020, Illinois dispensaries tallied more than $669 million. That figure has already been obliterated in 2021, with $753 million in sales in the first seven months.

Illinois had its best month yet in July, with more than $127 million, according to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. More than $42 million of that came from other states such as Indiana.

Illinois collects myriad taxes on that money, from excise to a “cannabis cultivation privilege tax.” People buying products from dispensaries can pay anywhere from 10% to 25% on their purchases.

The state divides that money in several different ways, The Pantagraph reported, with 35% going to the general fund to help pay for education and public safety.

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