MILWAUKEE — Marijuana sales are booming just over Wisconsin’s border in Illinois, according to revenue reports. However, republican lawmakers who re-introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana on Wednesday say they are not proposing it for the tax dollars.
Recreational marijuana has been legal in Illinois since January 2020. Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Network co-director Jay Selthofner, who advocates for legalized marijuana, says lawmakers are missing out on a chance to create jobs and collect more tax revenue.
“Cannabis is an industry that requires a farmer to grow it, a processor to process it, distributors to distribute it and retails to sell it, so the plethora of jobs and opportunities under a robust cannabis bill is huge to the state and to the government,” said Selthofner.
According to state data, in the last year Illinois has sold $1,379,088,278.61 in marijuana. Of that amount, $436,176,093.93 has been in out-of-state sales. In the states surrounding Wisconsin besides Illinois, Michigan has also made it legal to use marijuana recreationally. Minnesota allows it for medical use.
“State’s that have not legalized and are bordering legal states, they are sort of donating tax revenue to state’s with legalization because their residents are crossing the border and purchasing and contenting to the tax coffers in the other states,” said Jared Moffat of the Marijuana Policy Project.
TheMPPtracks how much money states make in recreational marijuana. It says between January and November of 2021, Illinois collected $387,695,992 in tax revenue. Michigan collected $188,306,010 during that same time.
“States have seen a tremendous benefit in terms of their budgets and they have been able to direct those to social programs,” said Moffat.
However, even though there is legal money being made, there are still a high amount of illegal marijuana sales. In Illinois, a report by the Chicago Sun-Times says illegal pot sales last year likely surpassed $2.2 billion, which is nearly double that of legal sales.
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth says there are criminal organizations behind those numbers.
“You have the black market. You have the cartels from Mexico coming up and rather than shipping it up and they start producing it in those home states and they just do black market. They don’t do it like Wisconsin would like to do or like Illinois likes to do,” said Beth.
On top of that, Beth anticipates Wisconsin’s problem with driving under the influence to get worse with more drugged driving.
“Legalizing it is not going to make Wisconsin better and for the legislators that are looking forward to one point, whatever billion dollars that Illinois makes in throwing that into the coffers here in Wisconsin, you're just adding more complications,” said Beth. “You are looking at problems for law enforcement. There’s a whole bunch of complications that go with it.”