The governor of Wisconsin is thinking about adding marijuana legalization to his 2021 budget proposal as a means to boost tax revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in a recent interview, Gov. Tony Evers (D) said that adult-use legalization was on the table—despite facing opposition from the legislature over more modest cannabis proposals in the past.
While Evers attempted to get marijuana possession decriminalized and medical cannabis legalized through the budget in 2019, Republican leaders in the legislature nixed those measures from the final spending bill. There’s since been an open question about how the governor would navigate the issue this time around, but now he’s indicating he may go bolder.
Evers criticized the legislature for failing to act on the more incremental reforms at the beginning of the year, citing overwhelming public support for medical cannabis legalization.
“When more than 80 percent of our state supports medical marijuana…and elected officials can ignore those numbers without consequence, folks, something’s wrong,” he said during his annual State of the State address.
Marijuana Moment reached out to Evers’s office for comment about his plans for the new year, but a representative was not immediately available.
Wisconsin legislators filed a bill last year to remove criminal penalties for possession of up 28 grams of marijuana, but it did not advance.
Meanwhile, voters at the local level have been making their opinion clear on cannabis reform over the past few years. In three jurisdictions, they approved non-binding advisory questions in favor of marijuana legalization last year. That’s after Wisconsinites across the state overwhelmingly embraced cannabis reform by supporting similar measures during the 2018 midterm election.
In another sign of the times, city officials in the state’s capital voted last month to remove most local penalties for marijuana possession and consumption, effectively allowing cannabis use by all adults 18 and older.
Evers isn’t the only governor with marijuana on the mind as the country heads into 2021.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has tried for the past two years now to pass legalization through the budget, and he has plans to include it in his request again in 2021. Like Evers, he’s stressed the economic potential of the reform amid the health crisis.
Earlier this month, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) unveiled a budget proposal that “lays the groundwork to legalize marijuana” by including millions of dollars to support efforts to expunge cannabis convictions as well as steps to set up the state to eventually implement a system of commercial sales.
At the start of the year, the governor of Rhode Island called for marijuana legalization through a state-run program in her budget proposal. Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) included a legalization request in her 2019 budget submission to the legislature as well, but it was not adopted by lawmakers. She’s said she will try again in 2021.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.