Governor Tony Evers of Wisconsin recently announced his budget plan will include a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana. If not blocked by the Republican-controlled Legislature, the budget proposal could be a catalyst toward allowing the use of medical marijuana.
Evers said the recreational marijuana measure could generate $166 million in revenue that would be used to help fund rural schools and programs for marginalized communities, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
“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,” Evers said in a statement.
State polling shows more than half the state supports a marijuana program for some form in the state. Even so, Wisconsin is among the minority of U.S. states that have not legalized marijuana. Neighboring states Illinois and Michigan have both legalized recreational use, and Minnesota has a medical marijuana program.
Support for one or both of the pot proposals is growing in Wisconsin.
In the 2018 election, 16 counties and two cities voted to support medical or recreational marijuana in referendums. A 2019 Marquette University Law School poll found that 59% of Wisconsin voters supported legalizing recreational marijuana and 83% backed legalizing medical marijuana.
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester recently said he supported legalizing medical marijuana but not recreational marijuana. He wants the issue to be addressed separately from the state budget.
Under Evers’ plan, buyers would have to be 21 or older to purchase the drug for recreational purposes and 18 or older for medical use. Wisconsin residents could possess at most 2 ounces and six plants for personal use. Out-of-state residents could possess 0.25 ounces at most.
It has been estimated marijuana legalization in Wisconsin would save the state roughly $50 million per year, if not much more than that.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.