The Wisconsin State Journal published my letter to the editor about adult use cannabis becoming legal in Illinois in their print edition just in time for the beginning of legal adult-use cannabis sales in Illinois Jan. 1, 2020. 28 stores will be open Jan. 1 with the majority in the greater Chicago area. With the small number of stores and existing shortages in the state's medical dispensaries, shortages are anticipated and stores may run out of product with the demand from state residents and visitors from neighboring states like Wisconsin, Indiana and Iowa.
Here is my letter:
With Illinois set to legalize retail sales of marijuana to adults on Jan. 1, 2020, some Wisconsin sheriffs and police chiefs near the Wisconsin border with Illinois have been telling news media how worried they are, frequently citing concerns about impaired driving.
A new study by Dr. Benjamin Hansen from Utah's Center For Growth And Opportunity found that after Washington state legalized cannabis sales for adults, the number of crashes involving alcohol in neighboring Idaho declined 18%. The effect is most pronounced in counties closest to the Washington border.
In the Idaho counties directly bordering Washington, crashes were down 21%. For counties an hour from the border, crashes involving alcohol dropped 18%. Counties three hours away saw a 10% reduction, and those six hours away saw no reduction.
Researchers believe the study suggests cannabis and alcohol are substitutes. As cannabis becomes easier to access, consumers drink less, resulting in fewer alcohol-related car crashes in Idaho.
So given these results, it is reasonable to consider that cannabis legalization in Illinois will have a positive impact on neighboring states such as Wisconsin, where marijuana remains illegal. For law enforcement, this means fewer crashes, not more, and safer streets in communities as far away as a three-hour drive from the border.
Gary Storck, Madison