UPDATE (WKOW) -- In his first budget as governor, Tony Evers tried to pass a medical marijuana provision that ultimately failed.
Now two years later he's going even further by pushing for full recreational legalization, treating the drug like alcohol.
"It is refreshing to have a leader who hears the voices of the people of the state of Wisconsin and is inserting those values and those voices into his policy," Senator Melissa Agard, D-Madison, said.
She has long been a proponent of legalization in the state legislature.
Governor Evers pointed to a 2019 Marquette Law School poll showing that 59 percent of voters approve of full legalization.
"It feels like the only place where this is a partisan issue is under the Capitol dome here in the city of Madison," Sen. Agard.
In Evers's proposal, he projected that legalization would bring $165 million in revenue that he hoped to reinvest into communities by supporting equity grants and small and rural schools.
That number is not far off from what other states are seeing.
In Illinois, where cannabis has been legal since January of 2020, their Department of Revenue reports $152 million in tax revenue.
"It is vitally important that we learn from these lessons, and we take that revenue, and we take the opportunity to create that revenue to lift up Wisconsin's citizens as well as Wisconsin's entrepreneurs and businesses and farmers," Sen Agard said.
Republicans in 2019 rejected Governor Evers's first attempt at medical marijuana legalization before the bill even reached the floor saying it paved the way for recreational use.
Speaker Robin Vos said in a statement then "I'm open to medical marijuana when it's prescribed by a doctor, but it has to be done in a targeted way without allowing recreational use."
27 News reached out to Republican leaders Sunday, but we have not heard back.
Governor Evers's plan would only allow the sale of marijuana grown in Wisconsin, to support farmers.
Senator Agard hopes legalization will bring many benefits including stopping racial disparities in possession arrests.
MADISON (WKOW) -- Governor Evers is again proposing to legalize marijuana in Wisconsin.
Evers announced Sunday his 2021-23 biennial budget will propose regulating and taxing marijuana like Wisconsin regulates and taxes alcohol. Under the proposal, Wisconsin would join 15 other states, including neighboring Michigan and Illinois, in legalizing recreational marijuana.
The governor’s budget proposal will increase revenue, create jobs, and reduce criminal justice system costs while providing a pathway for those suffering from chronic or debilitating pain and illness to utilize the medicine they require.
“Legalizing and taxing marijuana in Wisconsin—just like we do already with alcohol—ensures a controlled market and safe product are available for both recreational and medicinal users and can open the door for countless opportunities for us to reinvest in our communities and create a more equitable state,” Gov. Evers said.
“Frankly, red and blue states across the country have moved forward with legalization and there is no reason Wisconsin should be left behind when we know it’s supported by a majority of Wisconsinites,” Evers said.
In 2019, a Marquette University Law Poll found that nearly 60 percent of Wisconsinites support the legalization of marijuana and 83 percent of Wisconsinites support the legalization of medical marijuana. The governor’s 19-21 biennial budget proposed legalizing medical marijuana, which was ultimately rejected by Republicans in the Legislature.
Under the governor’s proposal, the Department of Revenue (DOR) and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection would regulate and tax marijuana. The proposal would require the sale of marijuana for recreational use to be sold by a marijuana retailer holding a permit issued by the DOR. Individuals would need to be 21 years of age to purchase marijuana for recreational use. All sales of recreational marijuana to minors would be prohibited. The plan also provides a path for medical marijuana users to access the product without paying retail taxes.
Currently, there are certain limits placed on the sale and possession of marijuana under the proposal. Wisconsin residents can possess no more than two ounces of marijuana and six plants for personal use. Nonresidents can possess no more than 0.25 ounces of marijuana. Under the proposal, no marijuana processor or micro business that operates as a marijuana processor may make usable marijuana using marijuana grown outside of Wisconsin.
According to a press release sent out by the governor's office, legalizing marijuana is expected to generate more than $165 million annually beginning in the second fiscal year (FY) of 2023. The governor proposed setting aside $80 million of the revenue generated by marijuana to reinvest in communities across the state through a new Community Reinvestment Fund. Beginning in FY23, the Community Reinvestment Fund will fund $30 million in equity grants through the Department of Health Services, the Department of Administration, and the Department of Children and Families, respectively; $5 million to fund grants to underserved communities through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation; and provide more than $34 million to support sparsity aid, which goes to small, rural school districts. The remaining revenue would be deposited into the state’s general fund.