Marijuana legalization in Illinois, Michigan could trigger interstate tangling

The recreational market selling marijuana is coming to the Midwestern states, and the expensive, challenging industry is bringing a patchwork of legal and cultural snares.

The start of legal sales in Michigan on Dec. 1 and in Illinois on Jan. 1 brings a climate to the Midwest where some neighboring states allow limited marijuana use for medical purposes. But, none other has moved to permit recreational use.

Officials have been renewing warnings against the dangers of “canna-tourism” and carrying marijuana products over state lines, The Associated Press reported.

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In Michigan, where $4.7 million of recreational marijuana was sold in the first three weeks of December, regulators said they did not know how much was bought by out-of-state customers. But, many shop owners said business has been brisk, particularly from neighboring Ohio and Indiana and nearby Illinois.

Starting Jan. 1, 2020, Illinois will join Michigan as the only Midwestern states broadly allowing the sale and use of marijuana. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
Starting Jan. 1, 2020, Illinois will join Michigan as the only Midwestern states broadly allowing the sale and use of marijuana. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

“There’s been people from all over,” said Bart Kupczyk, a co-owner and director of retail at Ann Arbor-based Greenstone Provisions, one of 23 Michigan retailers licensed for adult-use recreational sales. “Ann Arbor is close to Ohio. It’s a destination city in its own right as a fairly well-known college town.”

Some 45 miles to the south in Morenci, a town of 2,100 people along the Ohio border, a dispensary has reported that a majority of its customers hailed from Ohio, where only medical marijuana has been legal. Another retailer in Morenci secured its state license last week.

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“It is important for residents of Ohio and nonresidents traveling through the state to understand possession of marijuana remains a criminal violation in Ohio, even if it is purchased legally in another state which permits recreational use,” said Staff Lt. Craig Cvetan, public affairs commander for the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Illinois is the 11th state to allow marijuana’s use and sale broadly, shrinking early states’ market advantages and abilities to draw tourists.

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Illinois marijuana company executives said they’ve trained employees to remind nonresidents that their products cannot legally be transported across state lines and can be consumed only in private homes or hotels that permit it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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