Dubuque County Sheriff concerned about potential for Illinois to legalize marijuana

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) -- The state of Illinois might legalize marijuana, and that's concerning for law officers on both sides of the Mississippi.

Lawmakers are debating a bill that would legalize marijuana use for people 21 years old and over. They have until May 31st to vote.

Dubuque County Sheriff Joe Kennedy is watching very closely to see what happens, because he expects if marijuana is legalized in Illinois, Dubuque would feel the effects.

He says Dubuque experienced something similar when Colorado first legalized marijuana. Kennedy says his deputies would pull people over who bought the drug in that state.

If Illinois legalizes, he expects people will drive right over the bridge and buy the drug legally, but then bring it back to Dubuque.

"People need to remember that regardless of what your personal opinion is on marijuana legalization, that it's still illegal in Iowa," he said. "If you get caught here, regardless if you bought it in Illinois legally, you will still be charged."

He's also concerned about people using in Illinois and then driving back to Dubuque high.

Kenney said, "people need to realize that marijuana, it’s proven that it can impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle for up to 24 hours after use.”

The Illinois Sheriff's Association and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police also oppose this legislation. Those groups are concerned about impaired driving, an increased burden on law enforcement agencies, and an increase in drug traffickers.