GOP lawmaker pushes to legalize medical marijuana, calls recreational a ‘non-starter’

NOW: GOP lawmaker pushes to legalize medical marijuana, calls recreational a ‘non-starter’

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Some Republican lawmakers are asking Governor Evers to reconsider his budget proposal to legalize recreational marijuana and instead, move forward with medical use only. 

Gov. Evers announced he will propose legalizing marijuana for recreational use in his state budget proposals, which he said would generate over $166 million in revenue for the state. Evers wants that money to be used to help fund rural schools and programs for underserved communities. 

The idea is likely to be met with opposition from GOP leaders, but Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma), a two-time cancer survivor, said there is still room for compromise on legalizing medical marijuana. 

“I think if we start with medical marijuana inside a very regulatory framework, I think the citizens would be open to that,” said Felzkowski. “I was on oxycodone and other extremely strong opioids and if I could have done it with medical marijuana, the side effects would have been much less.” 

Felzkowski said she plans to reintroduce legislation to legalize medical marijuana for some medical conditions and is urging her Republican colleagues to begin conversations on the topic. Last year, the bill did not receive a committee hearing. 

“The biggest thing we are asking for this year is a hearing. Let’s actually have one and hear experts in the field,” Felzkowski said. 

Democrats would rather aim higher. Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) is supportive of Evers' call for full recreational use, but also understands compromise could start with medical first. 

“This is jobs for Wisconsin, for people to grow, distribute,” said Larson. 

Republicans want Evers to have discussions about legalizing marijuana separately from the budget process. Evers proposed legalizing medical marijuana in his first state budget, but it was rejected by GOP leadership. 

“I think the same reasons Republican gave then, we can do this in (separate legislation), well another two years later and frankly there’s still this massive suffering from people who could have benefited,” said Larson. 

Last year, Felzkowski tried to gather support for her proposal to legalize marijuana for medical use, but it never received a committee hearing. She is hoping for a different outcome this year. 

Gaining support from GOP leaders on this issue is key to its success. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has said he supports medical marijuana, but so far there’s no indication by the newly-elected Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) what his stance is on legalization. A spokesman said LeMahieu will announce his views on Tuesday. 

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