The launch of legal pot sales in Illinois triggered concerns from Wisconsin law enforcement. Now, one month later, Illinois has reported $40 million in January sales while bordering counties in southeastern Wisconsin only saw a slight increase in arrests.
The first month of legal recreational marijuana generated $8.6 million dollars in Illinois just from out-of-state residents, but Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth said it hasn't created more work for his deputies.
"We really haven't experienced a change," Beth said. "I'm not aware of any additional arrests that we've made."
An open records request shows Kenosha County made 17 marijuana arrests this January, just three more than January of 2019.
The Walworth County Sheriff's Department saw a more significant increase with 32 pot arrests last month which is more than double the amount from last January. Rock County Sheriff's deputies made six additional arrests over those same timeframes.
"We didn't put out additional patrols, we didn't do anything out of the ordinary," Beth said.
Beth said K-9s trained to smell narcotics are assigned to every shift, but the threshold for searching vehicles for pot hasn't changed.
"It will have to have some suspicion that marijuana is being used or is in the vehicle," Beth said.
While Illinois and Wisconsin marijuana laws don't align now, state representative Melissa Sargent is pushing to change that for the seventh year in a row.
"It's not a matter of if this is going to happen in Wisconsin, it's a matter of when it's going to happen in Wisconsin," Sargent said.
Sargent believes Wisconsin could be capitalizing on hundreds of millions of dollars in potential revenue for infrastructure, schools and much more.
"This is a booming industry in the state of Wisconsin," she said. "Unfortunately, right now it's all in the black market."
While Sargent is optimistic Wisconsin will one day follow Illinois, she knows it's not a priority of state republicans who have majority control in the legislature.
"At this point, it's still an uphill battle considering the divisiveness in the building in Madison," she said.
Sargent co-sponsored a bill that would legalize recreational and medical marijuana in Wisconsin, but the proposal hasn't gotten a committee hearing. Republican leaders call it a 'non-starter'.