Law enforcement cautions students from purchasing, selling marijuana after Illinois legalizes recreational use

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Law enforcement is preparing for a potential increase of the number of people with marijuana in the state.

This comes after Illinois became the 11th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Law enforcement says that could create problems in Iowa, especially with students coming across state lines.

Trooper Bob Conrad with the Iowa State Patrol is calling it "business as usual" and says that even if people acquire marijuana legally in Illinois, whether the intention is for personal or distributional purposes, they should be prepared to face penalties under the law if they bring it into Iowa.

Starting January 1, 2020, the law in Illinois states that residents 21 and older can have up to 30 grams. Non-residents can have up to 15 grams. But law enforcement is reminding people now that state laws in Illinois do not carry over to Iowa, and do not qualify as a legitimate defense.

Regardless of intention, if someone is caught, they could face serious penalties.

"If it happens that we have students or something coming to this location and they're bringing extra marijuana that they're going to sell, if they get caught, they will face the penalties of Iowa law," Trooper Conrad said. "There is not a grey area where because you live 50 miles away where it's legal and you come here, that we're going to accept that. That's just the way we're not going to do it."

Trooper Conrad also expressed the concern for people driving impaired, especially if they decide to drive under the influence of marijuana.

"The use of illegal substances like marijuana, the use of prescription substances incorrectly, all that drugged driving is going up," Trooper Conrad said. "As more states legalize marijuana, your drugged driving is going to go up. When drugged driving goes up, I guarantee you fatalities will follow that."

"When you're behind the wheel high, you're not driving okay," Trooper Conrad said. "It's not acceptable. Our judgment is impaired, the way we do things, the way we think about things, the way we pull out in front of a car is completely different. If people are going to come into Iowa impaired, we as the Department of Public Safety are going to everything to keep those people safe."

In a statement to TV9, the University of Iowa reiterated the following information:

"The possession and sale of marijuana is still illegal at the federal level and in Iowa. The UI’s residence halls are substance-free environments and the possession of illegal drugs is prohibited. We encourage students to follow the rules, make healthy choices, and seek out the help of alcohol and drug education services on campus if they are struggling."

The penalties for possession of marijuana can carry up to two years in jail and a fine. Distribution is classified as a felony and could carry up to fifty years in jail.