EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- On New Year’s Day, Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana.
In 2018, another neighboring state, Michigan, legalized the drug for both medical and recreational use.
However, local legislators say marijuana legalization in Wisconsin, especially for recreational use is a long way out.
State Representative Jesse James (R) Altoona and former Altoona Police Chief says he is against the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
“We need to take into consideration the states that have already legalized marijuana and look at the impact it has had,” James says. “This is a very complicated issue.”
However James does support medical marijuana. He says the senate will not look at it this session but it is something that could be considered by the assembly in the near future and possibly next session.
“It is something we should be able to support because it will help so many people with medical conditions,” James says.
Senator Kathy Bernier (R) Chippewa Falls has introduced a bill supporting medical marijuana but says she too doesn’t expect to see legalization in Wisconsin any time soon.
James has signed Bernier’s bill supporting medical marijuana. He says there is a big focus on marijuana legislation, especially now that it has been legalized in two neighboring states.
“There are emails that come daily regarding the legalization of marijuana,” James says. “I also want to be the spokesperson that educates people to at least take a moment and try to understand the impact but let’s look at the future and the devastation that is going to come because it will.”
People from Wisconsin can legally purchase marijuana in Illinois but bringing it back into the state is still illegal. James worries it will cause more issues for law enforcement, especially if it is legalized in Wisconsin.
Law enforcement officers in the Chippewa Valley did not express concern for an increase in marijuana related incidents but Wisconsin State Patrol troopers are keeping an eye out for impaired drivers and people in possession of the drug.
“People from out of state need to realize that other states may not have the law that makes it legal for recreational use and they are subject to the penalties,” says Lieutenant Les Mlsna. “We have laws in the books that make it illegal so we take action based on that.”
Mlsna says state patrol sees its fair share of marijuana cases and marijuana based OWIs and there is a chance there could be an uptick now that it is legal in Illinois.
“Impairment is impairment if you are not able to operate your vehicle properly we need to get you off the road,” Mlsna says.
While legalizing marijuana does have its opponents, there are also supporters who hope to see it happen in Wisconsin someday.
“I think that is awesome for Chicago I think it would be super cool here too,” says Ariel Anderson of Eau Claire. “I think it has good effects medically it can help people in different ways.”
Shayne Holtzman of Eau Claire agrees.
“I think we are at that point now culturally where it is more accepted,” Holtzman says. “We can keep trying to restrict people from things all they want but they are just going find other ways to get it.”