Governor’s Request Legalizing Marijuana in Wisconsin Budget!

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On Wednesday, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin unveiled his proposed biennial budget, which once again includes language to legalize medical and recreational marijuana in the state. Democratic Governor Tony Evers has made it clear that he intends to include an adult-use bill in his request.

Despite a prominent Republican lawmaker’s warning that doing so could derail negotiations on less ambitious medical cannabis legislation. But, Evers’s staff made it plain that he would not be dissuaded from including the plan, noting that he had promised to advocate for total legalization.

During his campaign, the majority of voters in the state backed the policy change. But it would be a very uphill battle to get legalization for adults through a legislature controlled by the Republican Party. A summary of the governor’s proposed legalization of marijuana follows:

  • For personal use, Wisconsin allowed adults over the age of 21 to buy and possess up to two ounces of marijuana, but those from out of state were limited to a quarter of an ounce.
  • Adult citizens might also cultivate up to six cannabis plants for personal use.
  • Medical cannabis patients may include those who suffer from severe symptoms or illnesses.
  • When cannabis is finally legalized, the Department of Revenue (DOR), which has advocated for legalization in its 2019 budget request, will be in charge of market regulation and licensing operations.
  • The wholesale price of marijuana would be taxed at 15%, and sales to adults-only dispensaries would be taxed at 10%. Those who use cannabis for medical purposes would be exempt from the tax.
  • All profits would be reinvested back into the community to help pay for services for those struggling with mental illness and addiction.
  • Anybody convicted of a crime that the new law legalizes would be eligible to have their record expunged or request a new trial.
  • A labor peace agreement would be mandatory for marijuana companies with more than 20 employees.
  • In order to prioritize applicants who show they will “protest the environment, create secure, family-supporting jobs to local citizens, safeguard worker and consumer safety, and more,” DOR would have to establish competitive scoring in the licensing process.
  • Workers who use marijuana outside of work would be protected from discrimination, and the requirement that they submit to THC drug testing in order to receive public benefits would be removed.

According to projections from the governor’s office, the state will bring in $44.4 million in “segregated tax income” from legal cannabis in the state’s fiscal year 2025, with an additional $10.2 million going into the state general fund.

While the governor has proposed legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use, the conservative-led legislature has repeatedly thwarted his efforts to implement these reforms. There have been hundreds of proposals introduced this year pertaining to cannabis, psychedelics, and drug policy, and Marijuana Moment is keeping tabs on them all.

Patrons who pledge at least $25 per month will be able to view our dynamic maps, charts, and hearing calendar so they never miss a beat. Last month, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos warned that attempting to legalize adult use through the budget would “poison the well” in the legislature and put medical cannabis negotiations at risk.

However, the leader of the Senate has stated that he believes the more moderate policy is feasible this session. According to Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R), “our caucus is getting quite close” on medical marijuana. Many of our members who are finally in a position to vote on the issue want strict regulation instead.

The governor recently stated that his mood was brightened by the Senate leader’s comments on the nearing of a consensus on medicinal marijuana and that he is willing to sign such legislation so long as it does not contain “flaws” in the form of too many limitations.

In his inaugural address last month, Evers emphasized the importance of having a “serious dialogue about addressing marijuana much as we do alcohol.” Yet, Evers did not mention his legalization proposal in his budget statement on Wednesday.

Governor's Request Legalizing Marijuana in Wisconsin Budget!

Wisconsin Policy Forum released a new survey this month showing that half of the state’s adults over the age of 21 live within 75 minutes of a cannabis outlet in another state. Should marijuana legalization plans in neighboring Minnesota succeed this session, that figure might rise.

While some Wisconsin legislators have introduced bills to make recreational cannabis use legal, and former Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R) has said legalization is “likely” to happen at some point, the state legislature has so far failed to pass even more moderate proposals like decriminalization or the legalization of medical cannabis.

Evers visited with college students and pushed supporters to vote in the upcoming November election in order to move the state forward on marijuana legalization. Also, the governor just proposed a resolution to allow voters to place initiatives on the ballot, and if the Democrats had gained enough seats, they would have been in a position to do so.

Proponents of letting voters decide on marijuana legalization welcomed the proposal, but it’s unclear whether GOP lawmakers will go through with it. Voters around the state have spoken up on cannabis reform during the past few elections.

Voters in three counties and five municipalities around the state have recently passed non-binding advisory questions in favor of legalization. The primary function of these local elections is symbolic, serving as a barometer of public opinion on specific policy issues by giving representatives an easy way to gauge public opinion before making policy decisions.

However, even the approved ones won’t be able to alter the law on their own. According to a statewide poll published in August, 69% of Wisconsin’s registered voters support legalizing cannabis. That percentage rises to 81% among Democrats, 75% among independents, and 51% among Republicans.

Last year, Republicans introduced a restrictive medical cannabis bill, which was given a hearing on the unofficial marijuana holiday on 4/20 but was ultimately tabled because it was introduced too late in the legislative session. There have been several attempts by Republicans to pass legislation to gradually ease the penalties for marijuana possession in the state, but previous bills have died in committee.

Currently, a first-time marijuana possession conviction can result in a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail. A conviction for a second or subsequent violation carries a maximum sentence of three and a half years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

The governor last year vetoed a bill pushed through by the Republican majority that would have greatly increased the criminal consequences for anyone who uses butane or similar fuels to extract marijuana. In the meanwhile, while politicians work on reform, the governor has awarded hundreds of pardons to persons who had previously been convicted of nonviolent drug charges, most commonly marijuana possession.

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