The high road: Cannabis will be legal in Illinois as of Jan. 1 and Beloit police are worried | Politics and ElectionsPosted by On


For Amy Manganelli, Jan. 1 is shaping up to be a busy day. That’s the day her medical marijuana dispensary, Mapleglen Care Center, will begin selling cannabis products to so-called “recreational” users. A one-hour drive from Madison, she expects a lot of her new customers to come from the Badger State.

“We have gotten hundreds of phone calls since May from people saying they’re in Wisconsin and will we be open Jan. 1?” she said.

For David Zibolski, the new year will bring a new set of headaches. The chief of the Beloit Police Department, Zibolski is in charge of a jurisdiction located just north of a state line that will mark the difference between legal weed and an illegal narcotic.

Just to his south, the city of South Beloit is poised to become a marijuana mecca for folks in Wisconsin, cutting 25 minutes from the drive time to Rockford, currently the closest locale with dispensaries.

“You’re talking Madison here,” said South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl. “Like, ‘Oh, my god, Disneyland just moved closer.’”

Marijuana consumers caught on Zibolski’s turf shouldn’t expect a sympathetic ear.

“I’m not a fan,” he said. “I don’t think it’s good for our kids, our society, our public in general. And the data shows that.”

There are plenty who will challenge his data, which include hotly debated statistics on driving fatalities and violent crime. But few dispute his contention that come Legalization Day, a lot of Wisconsinites will be heading for the green, skunky bounty of the Land of Lincoln.

Madison’s brush with easy access to marijuana is a case in point. For reasons still unclear, Madison police allowed a downtown Rastafarian church to dispense cannabis products for “donations” for more than two months before raiding the place on May 29 and arresting the founders. One of them, Madison native Jesse Schworck, said the church had amassed 20,000 members.

There’s no reason to believe that market has disappeared.

“Just like in Colorado and other states, it’s going to get people to go down there and bring more back,” said TJ Meadowcroft, a Madison resident who calls himself a casual user. “Obviously the cops are going to have issues with it, but they’re probably not going to be able to stop everybody.”

Alan Robinson, executive director of a recently formed state chapter for the…

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