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Missouri’s neighbor has years of experience with recreational marijuana


What Missouri law enforcement officers are grappling with right now – newly legalized recreational marijuana for adults – Illinois went through three years ago.

It has been over three years since Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed recreational marijuana into law for those 21 years old and older. Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell said he was initially skeptical of legalization. Sangamon County is home to Springfield, the state capital.

“You know for decades we took people to jail for this,” Campbell said. “The easy part was turning the mindset around, the hard part is recognizing the nuances of the law."

Previously in Illinois, the smell of marijuana was enough for probable cause to stop someone. Now under the new law, burnt marijuana is not enough to justify probable cause.

“We know people are smoking in their cars. We can smell it at intersections sitting at stop lights, so we know people are violating the law but it is very difficult to get into the cars to see if they are transporting illegally," Campbell said.

When it comes to law enforcement one tool that has been beneficial in the detection of drugs has been police dogs. But now, the dogs need new training.

When it comes to the highway, "my concern has always been public safety, and just like DUI and alcohol we need to know if people are high driving,” Campbell said.

Campbell points to fatal crashes, which grew from 951 in 2018 to 1,210 in 2021 before dropping slightly.

“What I see so far with these numbers is that more people are driving impaired that are causing fatal crashes,” Campbell said.

Source: Illinois state government

Meanwhile, arrests for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol dropped between 2018-20, from more than 26,000 to a little more than 20,000.

Illinois Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell said he believes legalization is working as hoped.

“The governor said he wanted to legalize cannabis for a couple of reasons, one being the failed war on drugs, so we expunged 800,000 records,” Mitchell said. “And we have millions and millions of dollars of tax revenue not just coming into the state but I think over $144 million back to the communities that were hardest hit in the war on drugs.”

Source: Illinois state government

According to the deputy governor, drug arrests have been trending down for the last couple of years. The question remains whether COVID-19 had an effect on that or was it the decline in the illegal drug market.

“I think that what we have seen is the illegal market is beginning to do down.  We are seeing more people purchase from the licensed and regulated stores," Mitchell said.

Columbia police did not respond to requests for more information and an interview.

Article Topic Follows: Missouri
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Chris Bryant

Chris joined ABC17 in April of 2021 as Chief Photographer.
A multi-award-winning photographer whose career has spanned over 20 years in broadcasting from television and radio and included over 60 individual awards for photography, reporting, and editing.
Chris has covered stories from hurricanes to the Super Bowl, the Kansas City Royals’ two World Series runs and stories from Florida to Utah and Arizona.
Chris is married and a father of four.


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