Gov. Evers proposes legalizing marijuana in Wisconsin in biennial budget

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) --- Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is proposing legalizing marijuana in the badger state as part of his 2021-2023 biennial budget proposal on Sunday, Feb. 7.

Evers proposed regulating and taxing marijuana "much like Wisconsin regulates and taxes alcohol". 

Under the proposal, Wisconsin would join 15 other states in legalizing recreational marijuana. 

"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."

Democratic Senator Melissa Agard (D-Madison) supports the proposal and feels it will also address equity, and many other issues.

"We’ll be able to have a positive impact on impaired driving. We’ll be able to have a positive impact on youth usage. We will have less street crime happening in our communities," said Agard to CBS 58.

In 2019, a Marquette University Law Poll found nearly 60% of Wisconsinites support the legalization of marijuana and 83% of people in the state support the legalization of medical marijuana. 

Officials say legalizing marijuana is expected to generate more than $165 million annually beginning in fiscal year 2023. Evers' budget proposal hopes to increase revenue, create jobs, and reduce criminal justice system costs, while providing a pathway for those suffering from pain and illness to utilize the medicine they require, officials say. Evers would invest a portion of the revenue in equity initiatives and rural schools. 

The governor's 19-21 biennial budget proposed legalizing medical marijuana, but it was rejected by Republicans in the Legislature. 

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) supports medical marijuana, but not recreational.

"I don’t think we have a need to have more drugs in society, especially when we see the opioid crisis and all the rest," said Vos during an interview with the Wisconsin Eye.

Under the governor's new proposal, it would be regulated by both the Department of Revenue and the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection. According to a news release, it would require the sale of marijuana for recreational use. All sales of recreational marijuana to minors would be prohibited and individuals would need to be 21 years of age to purchase. The plan also provides a path for medical marijuana users to access the product without paying retail taxes.

There are limits placed on the sale and possession of marijuana under Gov. Evers' proposal. Wisconsin residents can not possess more than two ounces of marijuana and six plants for personal use. Nonresidents can possess no more than 0.25 ounces of marijuana. Officials say, under the proposal, no marijuana processor or microbusiness that operates as a marijuana processor may make usable marijuana using marijuana grown outside of Wisconsin. 

Evers will introduce his full biennial budget later this month.

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