WHITE COUNTY — Illinois’ recent legalization of recreational marijuana won’t change how White County law enforcement upholds the state’s legal standards.
The “Prairie State” legalized pot use June 25, with the legislation going into effect Jan. 1, 2020. Illinois is the second state bordering Indiana to legalize recreational marijuana, after Michigan green-lighted the drug in December 2018.
The Illinois state line is about 30 miles away from White County’s western edge, while the Michigan state line is about 65 miles from Monon near the county’s northern border.
Marijuana use and possession is still illegal in Indiana and its neighbors’ attitudes toward the drug won’t affect the strategies of local law enforcement.
“Nothing will change for us,” said White County Sheriff Bill Brooks. “(It’s) still illegal in Indiana.”
Brooks said both possession and being under the influence of marijuana is illegal in Indiana, therefore someone driving from Illinois to Indiana while under the influence could be charged after crossing the border.
Monticello Police Chief Randy Soliday echoed Brooks in how his department would deal with Illinois’ new legislation.
“Nothing’s going to change,” he said. “We’ll deal with it.”
Though marijuana is still illegal in Indiana, other derivatives of plants in the cannabis family have recently been allowed into the state’s marketplace. CBD oil purchase and use was legalized by Gov. Eric Holcomb in March 2018.
CBD oil is a product created from hemp, a close relative to the marijuana plant. The oil can be consumed in many different ways, via soap, food, straight-forward topical application or through other dosed products. CBD does not create a “high,” as it must contain less than 0.3 percent THC, the compound present in marijuana that puts one under the influence.
More recently, the legal production of hemp was signed into law May 2 and went into effect July 1. This allows farmers to grow hemp, which produces fibers that can be used to create clothing, rope and other commercial products.
These two pieces of legislation took a lot of time and effort, according to state Rep. Don Lehe (R-District 25), who served as an advisor on the hemp bill during the 2019 General Assembly.
“We had testimonies from folks (who) use hemp fiber for several different products,” Lehe said, “and I mean there’s thousands of products made from hemp fiber.
“But the problem was with the federal government — it was still classified as a Level I narcotic or drug, which would be the marijuana. Finally, the federal government last year, separated legal industrial hemp … and they said, ‘OK, if it’s below 3 percent THC, then it’s legal.’”
Lehe said he’s heard that hemp is now being grown in up to 2,000 acres, up from the couple dozen acres allowed at Purdue University, which was given a special pass to grow hemp for research purposes before the Indiana law went into effect.
“We’ve got those folks using the fiber, really looking forward to be able to buy hemp fiber in Indiana,” he said, “and not have to import it from foreign countries.”