Skip to Content

Strong IL marijuana sales give lawmakers supporting WI legalization hope

Remaining Ad Time Ad - 00:00

MADISON (WKOW) -- For the second day in a row, Sunnyside Dispensary in Rockford, Illinois had to close its doors early -- running out of products because demand was so high.

State officials in Illinois say customers bought more than $3 million Wednesday, which was the first day of legal sales. The average purchase was about $200.

That kind of business is catching the attention of Wisconsin lawmakers who've been pushing to legalize for years.

"It's a billion-dollar industry knocking on the doors of the State of Wisconsin," said Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison).

In May, Sargent re-introduced a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in Wisconsin.

"The same as what was just legalized in Illinois," she said.

Sargent has introduced it in previous sessions as well, but she says so far, the Republican-controlled legislature hasn't taken it up.

"I'm hopeful that my legislative colleagues are paying attention to what's happening in the states surrounding us," she said.

Sargent's isn't the only marijuana bill that's made its way into the capitol, but it is the most extreme.

A bipartisan bill in October hoped to move medical marijuana legalization forward.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) opposed medical marijuana in the budget of Governor Tony Evers, but has said he's open to legalizing it when it's prescribed by a doctor and distributed in a way that prevents recreational use.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has been one of the strongest opponents, saying in October:

“I’ve long been an opponent to any type of marijuana legalization and doubt that any proposals currently being floated will gain support from Republicans in the Senate.”

Sargent says she knows full legalization in Wisconsin is still a steep, uphill battle, but she says the support from the people is there -- and sooner or later, Wisconsin will have to give in.

"I'm not confident that it's going to happen this legislative cycle," she said. "But we are certainly moving the ball down the field, and it's helpful to have states surrounding us move forward."

Both legislators and law enforcement have voiced concerns of legalization leading to more driving while high or easier access for those underage.

Sargent argues kids already have easy access to pot and people are already driving while under the influence of a number of substances -- so the more regulated and educated the marijuana market can be, she says the safer it will be, as well.

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

Skip to content