BELOIT - Less than six months before Illinois legalizes recreational cannabis use, the Beloit Police Department and two community groups are joining forces to host community conversations on all the unknowns surrounding the quickly expanding U.S. cannabis industry, with the first event held Thursday evening in Beloit.
The meeting was held to allow officials and organizers to discuss concerns with members of the public. But only about a dozen people - mostly those putting on the program - were in attendance at the Rotary River Center to hear from Beloit Police Chief David Zibolski and members of Youth2Youth 4 Change and Families Fighting Addiction.
In the first of three informational sessions, officials expanded on how the U.S. cannabis landscape has changed with laws allowing cannabis use for recreational and/or medical use being passed in 33 states. Officials also explained the differences between THC, hemp and cannabidiol (CBD).
Other sessions will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on July 18 and Aug 1, at the Rotary River Center in Riverside Park. The two later sessions will cover how legalized cannabis in Illinois may affect communities in Wisconsin and the possible impact on young people.
"We decided to do this because we wanted to get information out there for people," said Youth2Youth Director Debbie Fisher.
Fisher outlined how today's cannabis sold for recreational use is much more potent than in past years, and it is sold in several forms, from edibles, wax, oil and e-cigarette vapor products.
"It's consumed differently today than it was 30 years ago," Fisher said. "It's also marketed differently."
Youth2Youth is in the process of conducting a community survey; drafting a coalition belief statement; defining the problem of abuse and looking to build relationships with local organizations.
In his presentation, Beloit Police Chief David Zibolski outlined some gaps between local enforcement, state law and federal law. Cannabis use is illegal under federal law while states, including Wisconsin, are opting into programs, included in the 2018 federal farm bill package, to grow hemp and CBD industries. Zibolski said these programs lack proper mechanisms for enforcement, and he said there's no way of knowing what a marijuana plant would be used for - for its THC content, for hemp or for CBD products.
"All these different things are getting melded into one thing and people don't have time to ask questions and these things move very quickly so you find out later what the ramifications are," Zibolski said.
He said he fears the legislation passed by states including Illinois allowing recreational use and possession of cannabis outpaces the research behind cannabis products.
"We can't get research on what marijuana is out there because it's illegal at the federal level," Fisher said. "Really good research just can't be done."
Beloit City Council President Regina Dunkin said she would like to see more information be provided on the legal cannabis debate for Beloit residents.
"The community meetings give residents the opportunity to get information and have open dialogue about topics being presented by our city staff," Dunkin said.
Just the facts
What is THC?
THC is a psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant that effects memory, motor skills, sensory and time perception.
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol or CBD is extracted from the cannabis plant and is required to have .3% THC or less, and is used in various edible, topical and e-cigarette products.
What is hemp?
Hemp is the cannabis plant grown at rates to have .3% or less THC levels in the plant used for fiber, clothing, rope and the production of CBD products.