The push to legalize cannabis in the Midwest is making new strides, with Wisconsin lawmakers introducing new bill and Ohio activists changing the language for a proposed legalization move. Meanwhile, Illinois and Michigan regional early adopters continued to see strong recreational marijuana sales with record months in July.
Last week a group of Wisconsin lawmakers appeared at an Illinois cannabis dispensary (where adult cannabis is legal) to introduce a law that would legalize marijuana in Badger State. The law allows adults 21 and older to purchase and use recreational cannabis, while adults 18 and older with debilitating health conditions have access to medical marijuana. Younger patients would be allowed to use cannabis medicinally with parental consent. Wisconsin currently has no regulations on legal cannabis, although it is surrounded by four states with at least one form of legalized marijuana.
Legislators gathered at the Sunnyside pharmacy in South Beloit, Illinois – just 300 yards from the state line – to illustrate how many of the company’s customers are from Wisconsin. On an average day, half the cars in the Sunnyside parking lot have Wisconsin license plates, according to South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl. When the bill was unveiled last week, Democratic Senator Melissa Agard, who supports the state Senate bill, said legalizing cannabis would be a good move for Wisconsin.
“Legalizing and taxing cannabis in Wisconsin, just like we do with alcohol, ensures a controlled, safe market for our communities,” said Agard.
Democrat and Wisconsin State Assembly MP David Bowen noted that drug prohibition laws in Wisconsin were not being enforced in a fair and equitable manner.
“Amid the failed war on drugs, enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color,” said Bowen, lead author of the legalization law. “If a person is arrested for non-violent possession of marijuana, they will be evicted from their work, their families, and their communities.”
Despite a 2019 poll by Marquette University Law School that found 59% of registered voters in Wisconsin support the legalization of cannabis, media reports suggest that approval of the law by the state’s Republican-led legislation does not seem likely. Agard said lawmakers will circulate lawmakers for two weeks to attract co-sponsors before moving forward with legislation.
Ohio activists resubmit the petition to legalize cannabis
In Ohio, citizens, not lawmakers, lead the way in legalizing recreational cannabis. The cannabis reform group, the coalition to regulate marijuana like alcohol, has again petitioned for a proposed legalization measure. In early August, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost rejected an earlier draft summary of the proposal that would allow adults 21 and older to own, buy, use, and grow marijuana. After reviewing the proposal to ensure it was a “fair and truthful” description of the law, Yost cited a list of seven shortcomings in the summary and sent it back to supporters for correction. For example, the attorney general wrote that the executive summary did not adequately explain the “cannabis social justice and jobs program” and did not clearly state that home growers are limited to owning up to six cannabis plants.
“Overall, the summary does not properly indicate to a potential signatory the nature and limitations of a proposed action,” Yost wrote in a letter to the group’s attorney.
Last Friday, proponents of the proposal resubmitted the executive summary after addressing the shortcomings identified by Yost.
“We appreciate the attorney general’s feedback on our initial filing and have fully addressed the issues identified in this updated filing,” coalition spokesman Tom Haren said in a press release.
Once the executive summary is approved, supporters of the legalization proposal can begin collecting petition signatures from registered Ohio voters. If the group collects at least 132,887 valid signatures, the proposal will be forwarded to the Ohio General Assembly for consideration. If lawmakers don’t approve of the measure, supporters could collect an additional 132,887 signatures to present the proposal to voters, perhaps as early as the November 2022 general election.
Midwest cannabis sales break records
If Wisconsin and Ohio successfully join the ranks of states that have legalized cannabis in the Midwest, they will be able to tap a market that will continue to grow for the early adopters of marijuana policy reform in the region. On August 3, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation reported that July adult cannabis sales totaled $ 127.8 million, breaking the state record set just two months earlier by 10 percent. Jason Erkes, spokesman for Chicago-based, multi-state cannabis operator Cresco Labs, said attendees to the Lollapalooza music festival at the end of the month helped add to the strong performance.
Michigan July marijuana sales are in! $ 128 million in adult sales and $ 43 million in medical device sales. Another record month!
– Andrew Brisbo (@MRAexec) August 13, 2021
“Summer tourism and Lollapalooza attendees were major contributors to sales outside of the state in July,” said Erkes.
Legal marijuana sales are also breaking records in Michigan. Last week the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) released July cannabis sales. Combined medical marijuana and adult cannabis sales totaled $ 171 million, generating more than $ 23 million in tax revenue. Andrew Brisbo, Executive Director of MRA, called July cannabis sales “another record month!”