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Will Differing State Pot Laws Create A 'Race to Legalize'?

State lines delineate vastly varying marijuana regulations across the Midwest. Illinois, Michigan, and, since December, Missouri allow recreational marijuana, while neighboring states have some of the nation's strictest laws. The contrasting statutes create some law enforcement concerns in states where marijuana is outlawed — when residents legally use marijuana just across the border or bring it back home. Many elected officials in those states say the larger problem is the loss of potential revenue from an industry that could bring visitors, jobs, and tax dollars reports Stateline. Public support for the liberalization of marijuana laws in this region is growing, following national trends. Much of the debate is economic, as restrictive states see their residents paying marijuana sales and excise taxes to neighboring states. In Illinois, which legalized adult-use marijuana in 2019, out-of-state residents account for 30 percent of recreational marijuana sales. Sales in the state have risen from just more than $400 million in fiscal 2020 to more than $1.5 billion in fiscal 2022. lllinois law mandates that a fourth of marijuana tax revenue be used to support communities that are “economically distressed, experience high rates of violence, and have been disproportionately impacted by drug criminalization.” The significant revenue is a big pull for states that outlaw marijuana to consider changing their policies. Some opponents of legalized cannabis worry about what other effects marijuana sales could have on their communities.

In Niles, Mi., a shop called Green Stem Provisioning offers medical and adult-use products. License plates were nearly evenly divided between Michigan and Indiana at the dispensary, five miles north of South Bend, In. Staffers at the family-run dispensary delivered a wide range of products, from “flower,” the traditional form of recreational pot, to edibles, tinctures, and baking ingredients such as Sugar Rush, which offers bakers 100 milligrams of THC. The dispensaries have generally settled nicely into the city, said Niles Police Chief Jim Millin. They’ve contributed to civic efforts, including sponsoring local festivals, donating to local causes, and responding to city concerns. Indiana, which has some of the nation’s toughest marijuana laws, borders two states (Illinois and Michigan) with recreational sales. “I try to enforce the laws as best I can based on what Indiana wants us to do,” said Ken Cotter, prosecutor for St. Joseph County, Indiana, along the Michigan border. The region is known as Michiana. A survey by a national law firm finds some Midwestern states among those least favorable to the cannabis industry. In Indiana, Cotter said the political status of marijuana is fluid. The 2022 Hoosier Survey by Ball State University found 56 percent of residents approved of adult-use marijuana which is an increase from 39 percent in 2018. As more states move to legalize adult-use marijuana, the windfall for the early adopters will likely diminish, according to a 2017 working paper by Benjamin Hansen, Keaton Miller, and Caroline Weber of the University of Oregon. They noted that sales at Washington dispensaries near the Oregon border fell by 36 percent when Oregon began adult-use sales. “These cross-border incentives may create a ‘race to legalize,’” they wrote.


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