Wisconsin Republican lawmakers oppose the governor’s weed legalization plans

Many members of the GOP-controlled legislature are already speaking out after Governor Tony Evers (D) announced that he will include a full plan to legalize marijuana in his upcoming budget inquiry.

Wisconsin’s Journey to Legalize Marijuana

Before Tony Evers took office in early 2019, three separate bills to legalize cannabis in Wisconsin had already been introduced – without success. But the newly elected governor wasted no time making his goals crystal clear. When drafting the state budget proposal in 2019, Governor Evers announced plans to oversee the decriminalization of marijuana possession and the legalization of medical marijuana.

Despite the push, attempts at cannabis reform were dropped by Republican lawmakers, and hopes for a new non-ban era in Wisconsin were once again dashed. In the months that followed, Governor Evers continued to press state lawmakers to take action on the matter, saying, “If more than 80 percent of our state supports medical marijuana … and elected officials can ignore those numbers to no avail, folks , Something wrong.” its 2020 State of the State address.

That pressure grew even stronger as the shutdowns caused by COVID-19 devastated the local economy over the course of 2020. According to New Frontier Data, marijuana sales in many adult states – including Wisconsin’s neighbor Illinois – rose nearly 50% from March through March April 2020. Those sales remained high during the lockdowns, leading to record sales in many state-owned (and local Tax revenue).

These numbers showed Governor Evers one thing: He had to go BOLDER. On Sunday, February 7th, the Wisconsin Governor unveiled a plan to fully legalize cannabis as part of his 2021-2023 state budget proposal. On the subject, he said, “Legalizing and taxing marijuana in Wisconsin – just like we are already doing with alcohol – ensures that a controlled market and safe products are available for both recreational and medical users,” he said Governor in a statement can open the door to myriad opportunities for us to invest in our communities and build a more just state. “

The plan would legalize marijuana for adults over the age of 21 and allow Wisconsin residents to carry up to two ounces of cannabis and grow up to six plants for personal use. The governor’s office went on to say that the plan “would increase revenues, create jobs and reduce costs of the criminal justice system, while providing a way for those suffering from chronic or debilitating pain and illness to get the drugs they need. “

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that wholesale products were charged a 15% excise duty and retail sales were charged an additional 10% excise duty – not to mention the pre-existing state sales tax. Governor Evers said the program could raise more than $ 165 million for the state as of 2023. However, Republican lawmakers are still at odds with the proposal.

GOP lawmakers shoot down recreational marijuana – open to minor reforms

On Wednesday after Governor Evers’ announcement, Senate President Chris Kapenga (R) showed a staunch disapproval of the idea, saying, “Legalizing marijuana for recreational use is not in the best interests of the Wisconsinites. There are serious health and societal issues that need to be understood, and Governor Evers should not sacrifice the safety of the people of Wisconsin – especially our children – to achieve the mighty dollar, ”Kapenga continued in the press release.

“The governor firmly believes that we are following science on COVID-19, but turning a blind eye to legalizing a drug without FDA approval – which all other drugs apply to. What happened to the honorable goal of protecting the people of Wisconsin and our children? “

While the Senate president showed little room for maneuver in his first statement, there are other GOP lawmakers who are open to compromise. Rep. Shae Sortwell (R) and Senator Kathleen Bernier (R) have pushed for legislation that would decriminalize small amounts of cannabis. The bill clarifies that possession of up to ten grams of pot would result in a civil penalty punishable by a fine of $ 100 and that repeated offenses would not result in conviction of a crime.

A handful of Republican lawmakers – including Congregation Speaker Robin Vos (R) – stand ready to consider legalizing medical cannabis. Senator Mary Felzkowoski (R) is particularly fond of this idea, as she plans to bring her colleagues back to medical marijuana legalization soon. She recently said: “If we start medical marijuana within a very regulatory framework, citizens would be open to it. . . The biggest thing we are asking for this year is a hearing. Let’s actually have one and hear experts in the field. “

While decriminalization and medical cannabis fall short of Governor Evers’ grand plans, he is confident he will act with the support of his Wisconsinite peers.

Wisconsinites want weed legalization

Wisconsin residents have made it clear the clock is ticking for a ban. Proponents of cannabis law reform in the state are addressing a wide variety of factors – alternative medical treatment, increasing state revenues, rejuvenating impoverished areas. And that is exactly how the funds will flow according to the governor. Of the planned $ 165 million, $ 80 million would be invested in low-income neighborhoods, and another $ 34 million would support rural school districts.

According to a recent poll by Marquette University Law School, nearly 83% of Wisconsin voters were in favor of legalizing medical marijuana and nearly 60% for full recreational use. The same support was evident in 2019 when Wisconsin residents in three counties voted for marijuana law reform on non-committal voting questions.

Whether or not the state legislature acts, local officials are already trying to reassess cannabis laws. Last month, Madison, Wisconsin, decided to lift most penalties for possession and use of cannabis, and Milwaukee officials are pushing to significantly lower fines for low-level marijuana violations.

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