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GOP leaders snuff out Evers’ plan to legalize marijuana

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The state Senate's top Republican said Friday he's against legalizing recreational marijuana, something Democratic Governor Tony Evers proposed in his budget for the next two-year cycle.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) said he was deferring to the police departments with whom he's discussed the issue.

"Recreationally, no, I'm not [in favor of legalization]." LeMahieu said. "I've heard from local law enforcement, law enforcement around the state have all taken stands it's really dangerous to be legalizing marijuana recreationally at this point."

LeMahieu's mention of public safety aligns with similar comments over the past couple weeks from other Republicans senators Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg).

Evers proposed legalizing medical marijuana two years ago; Republicans shot down that effort as well with then-majority leader Scott Fitzgerald adamantly opposing both medical and recreational legalization.

Evers said he was moving even further on the issue after seeing the revenue recreational marijuana has generated in border states.

"I'm particularly tired of seeing our tax dollars going across the border to northern Michigan or Illinois to go buy marijuana," Ever said. "I think the time has come. I hope the legislature will agree with us."

The Evers administration estimated legalizing recreational marijuana would bring the state $165 million in annual tax revenue.

While LeMahieu said he opposed taking up medical marijuana - or even decriminalization of the substance - as part of the state budget, he left the door somewhat open on those issues as standalone legislation.

"There are Republicans that have bills for both of those so they need to go through the legislative process like any other policy idea," LeMahieu said.

Still, LeMahieu cautioned that with marijuana still illegal at the federal level, he would be hesitant to support any type of measure that did not call for extreme regulation of who could acquire the drug through a prescription.

"Unless it's approved and there's tight ways it's used for medicinal purposes, then maybe we can start having that discussion," LeMahieu said.

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A. J. Bayatpour

Reporter, WKOW 27

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