Support for marijuana legalization in Wisconsin has reached a new, bipartisan high, according to a poll released on Wednesday.
The survey from Marquette Law School found that a solid 69 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin believe cannabis should be legal, which marks an eight percentage point increase since the firm’s last poll on the issue that was released in March.
Eighty-one percent of Democrats, 75 percent in independents and 51 percent of Republicans said they back legalization in the latest poll.
Younger people were significantly more likely to embrace the policy change, with support at 83 percent for those 18-29 and 89 percent for those 30-44, for example. But even those 60+ still voiced majority support at 53 percent.
Beyond age, every racial, regional, income and educational demographic in the survey was shown to support legalization.
The only groups where there wasn’t a majority in favor of ending cannabis prohibition were people who identified as “very conservative” (26 percent), once weekly or more than once weekly church goers (39 percent and 34 percent, respectively) and “born again” Protestant Christians (47 percent).
When Marquette first asked Wisconsin voters about legalization in 2013, overall support stood at 50 percent.
This new poll involved interviews with 811 Wisconsin voters from August 10-15, with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points.
The survey results aren’t just consistent with past polling—it also reflects a sentiment that voters in cities across the state have expressed at local ballots through non-binding advisory questions. And this November, voters in at least another half dozen cities and counties will have the chance to make their voices heard on the issue.
Legalization of marijuana: Overall, 69% favor, 23% oppose. Among Republicans, 51% favor, 39% oppose, Among Democrats, 81% favor, 10% oppose. Among independents, 75% favor, 20% oppose. #mulawpoll
— MULawPoll (@MULawPoll) August 17, 2022
But while some state lawmakers have filed bills to legalize cannabis for adult use—and Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R) has said legalization is “likely” to happen at some point—the legislature has so far failed to pass even more modest proposals like decriminalization or the legalization of medical cannabis.
Some Republicans filed a limited medical cannabis bill this year—and it got a hearing on the unofficial marijuana holiday 4/20, but that came too late in the legislative session for lawmakers to actually vote on the measure.
Other Republican lawmakers have filed bills to more modestly decriminalize marijuana possession in the state, but none of those proposals advanced during last year’s session.
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Wisconsin lacks a statewide ballot initiative process, so citizens aren’t able to independently enact marijuana reform.
As it stands, marijuana possession is punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail for a first offense. People convicted of a subsequent offense would face a felony charge punishable by a maximum $10,000 fine and up to three and a half years in prison.
Gov. Tony Evers (D) tried to legalize recreational and medical marijuana through his proposed state budget last year, but a GOP-led legislative committee stripped the cannabis language from the legislation. Democrats tried to add the provisions back through an amendment, but Republicans blocked the move.
The governor in February also vetoed a GOP-led bill that would have significantly ramped up criminal penalties for people who use butane or similar fuels to extract marijuana.
Evers held a virtual town hall event last year where he discussed his cannabis proposal, emphasizing that polling demonstrates that Wisconsin residents back the policy change.
And in the interim as lawmakers pursue reform, the governor has issued hundreds of pardons during his years in office, primarily to people convicted of non-violent marijuana or other drug offenses.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.