A strong majority of Wisconsin voters support legalizing marijuana, according to a new poll. And that includes a majority of Republican voters who now say cannabis prohibition should end, even as GOP leaders have proactively blocked the reform in the legislature.
The survey from Marquette Law School that was released on Wednesday found that support for cannabis reform continues to grow in the state, with 61 percent of voters saying they favor legalization, compared to 31 percent who oppose the policy change.
Support for legalization of marijuana continues to grow. 61% of WI voters favor legalization and 31% oppose it in new poll. In October 2013, it was 50% in favor, 45% opposed. In January 2019, it was 59% in favor, 35% opposed. #mulawpoll
— MULawPoll (@MULawPoll) March 2, 2022
But one of the most notable findings from the poll is that support for adult-use legalization among Republican voters has officially reached majority status, with 51 percent of those who identify as GOP backing the reform. That’s an eight percentage point increase since the university conducted the first survey in 2013.
In new poll, 51% of Republicans favor legalization of marijuana, 42% oppose it. Among independents, it was 60% and 28%. Among Democrats, it is 75% and 19%. #mulawpoll
— MULawPoll (@MULawPoll) March 2, 2022
Democrats were the most supportive of legalization at 75 percent, followed by independents who back the policy change at 60 percent.
“Support for legalization of marijuana has grown in each partisan group since 2013, with a slim majority of Republicans now supporting legalization,” Marquette Law School said in a press release.
Overall, support for legalization has grown demonstrably since voters were first polled on the issue in 2013. That year, 50 percent of voters said they favor cannabis reform, versus 45 percent who said it should remain illegal.
The latest poll involved interviews with 802 registered Wisconsin voters from February 22-27, with a +/-3.8 percentage point margin of error.
Despite the rising, bipartisan embrace for legalization in Wisconsin, the GOP-controlled legislature has yet to meet the moment, consistently blocking reform from advancing as the Democratic governor and lawmakers from his party have pushed for it. But there are signs of movement, including among Republican lawmakers.
More than a dozen Republican Wisconsin lawmakers announced in January that they were filing a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, for example.
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The Republican-led medical cannabis legislation is also fairly restrictive, as it prohibits smokable marijuana products and doesn’t allow patients to grow cannabis for personal use. Patients could only obtain cannabis preparations in the form of oils, pills, tinctures or topicals.
It does not appear that the measure, sponsored by Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R) and Rep. Patrick Snyder (R), contains equity provisions like expungements that are favored by progressives.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has expressed support for medical cannabis reform, and the lead Senate sponsor said at a press conference in January that Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) is “more than willing” to hold a hearing on the proposal.
“Currently 36 other states, including our neighbors Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota, have passed laws allowing patients with certain medical conditions to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it,” a co-sponsorship memo that Felzkowski and Snyder sent to fellow legislators says. “Medicine is never one-size-fits-all, and it is time for Wisconsin to join the majority of the country in adding another option which may help patients find the relief they need.”
The memo also discusses how voters in multiple cities and counties across Wisconsin have strongly approved local, non-binding ballot referendums expressing support for marijuana reform in recent years.
This isn’t the only cannabis bill that’s up for consideration in the Wisconsin legislature.
In November, a bipartisan pair of legislators introduced a bill to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession. In August, three senators separately filed legislation to legalize cannabis for adult use in the state.
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 also recently vetoed a GOP-led bill that would have significantly ramped up criminal penalties for people who use butane or similar fuels to extract marijuana.
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.
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 more than 300 pardons during his years in office, primarily to people convicted of non-violent marijuana or other drug offenses.