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Wisconsin Governor ‘Tired’ Of Marijuana Revenue Going To Illinois Next Door

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Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D), whose proposed state budget includes provisions to legalize both medical and adult-use marijuana, says he’s sick of seeing tax revenue from cannabis sales go to neighboring states that have already legalized.

“Frankly I’m kind of tired of talking to the governor from Illinois,” he said in a video posted to Twitter on Wednesday. “Whenever I get with him, he thanks me for having Wisconsinites cross the border to buy marijuana.”

Later in the day, Evers held a virtual town hall-style meeting where he and other members of the administration explained the legalization proposals and other elements of the budget plan, took public comments and urged constituents to pressure the Republican-controlled legislature to stop blocking cannabis reform.

Nearly 300 people attended the evening event, which featured comments from the governor, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) and representatives of some state agencies, including the Department of Corrections.

Evers noted that among voters, members of both parties support the policy change even if that isn’t being translated into legislative action by lawmakers in the state’s GOP-led Senate and Assembly.

“In one of the rooms I work in at the Capitol, on the ceiling it says: ‘The will of the people is the law of the land,’” Evers said, “and I take that seriously. When people are passing referenda to say, ‘We believe that we should have recreational marijuana and/or medicinal marijuana,’ that’s what we should do as legislators and as leaders in the executive branch.”

At the local level, Wisconsin voters in three jurisdictions last year approved non-binding advisory questions in favor of marijuana legalization. That’s after Wisconsinites overwhelmingly embraced cannabis reform by supporting more than a dozen similar measures across the state during the 2018 election. Late last year, city officials in the state’s capital, Madison, voted to remove most local penalties for cannabis possession and consumption, effectively allowing use by adults 18 and older.

Evers said his office estimates that legalizing and taxing cannabis statewide could bring Wisconsin more than $165 million annually starting in 2022, an amount that would likely increase as the market matures.

Early last year, when Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) gave his State of the State address, he quipped that the state’s legal cannabis program would attract buyers from nearby states. Legalization, which Pritzker signed into law in 2019, “gives us a chance to collect tax revenue from the residents of Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa and Indiana,” he said.

Legal cannabis sales in Illinois, one of only a few U.S. states to have legalized the drug through its legislature, made the state more than $200 million last year, and so far this year consumers are on track to far exceed that mark. Average daily sales surpassed $3.5 million last month—and the state now takes in more tax revenue from cannabis sales than from alcohol.

Evers, in the video he posted to Twitter, said that because lawmakers in his state are refusing to end prohibition, “the sales tax goes to them [in Illinois], instead of us.”

Republicans in Wisconsin’s legislature are broadly opposed to legalization, and some have criticized the governor’s proposals as grandstanding. House Speaker Robin Vos (R) said the marijuana reform component of the budget request is an example of Evers demonstrating that he is “not serious about governing, he’s serious about politics.” Senate President Chris Kapenga (R) recently called adult-use legalization a nonstarter and said it’s “not in the best interest of Wisconsinites.”

During a section of Wednesday evening’s town hall meeting, participants split up into small breakout groups, and members of the administration took feedback on the plan and answered questions from the public. In one group, two separate commenters said they supported legalization but felt the provisions would be rejected by state’s Republican-controlled legislature.

“If we’re going to have a meaningful conversation, we need to address and recognize political realities that are going on,” said one person, “which is that a lot of the things that are proposed in this budget are not going to get through the legislature.”

Another commenter, who said he had reached out to his state representatives as well as local sheriffs in Wisconsin, asked what the governor’s plan is if lawmakers remove the legalization proposal from the budget. “The GOP is taking what law enforcement leaders tell them, and none of them are going to support this,” he said. “It’s not going to pass, so what is going to happen next?”

“I am certainly not an eternal optimist,” replied Maggie Gau, Evers’s chief of staff. “If they strip it out, which they probably will,” Gau added, the governor’s office hopes to continue to expand on recent local pushes to decriminalize cannabis.

“We see communities across the state are taking the steps to decriminalize locally,” she said. “Continuing to build on that momentum, as well, I think is another place where we can make some headway.”

Gau noted that some Republicans have expressed support for medical marijuana, saying the governor’s office plans to “really lean in on the legislature in terms of what we can do on medical” if the provision is stripped from Evers’s budget proposal.

Zach Madden, legislative affairs director for the governor, said there’s “a lot of chatter about the possibility to maybe get medical marijuana done,” adding that “there are still going to be folks who are very fired up and continuing to talk about recreational marijuana in the Capitol moving forward, as well.”

Evers urged all the attendees to ask lawmakers to support the proposal.

“We need your help,” he said, noting that his budget plan will soon be taken by the Joint Committee on Finance. “We need you to contact your local representatives and let them know why you support this budget, and help us get this budget over the finish line.”

Evers tried to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize small-scale cannabis possession in his first budget proposal as governor, in 2019, but Republicans in the legislature stripped those provisions from the bill.

His current proposal would allow adults 21 and older, or qualifying patients, to purchase, possess and consume cannabis. Residents could buy and possess up to two ounces of marijuana, while out-of-state visitors could have up to one quarter-ounce. Adults could grow up to six plants for personal use.

The governor’s plan calls for a 15 percent wholesale excise tax on cannabis, in addition to a 10 percent retail excise tax on marijuana sales. Medical cannabis sales would not be subject to the sales tax.

Sixty percent of those funds would go to a new “community reinvestment fund” and the rest would be deposited in the state’s general fund.

Of the nearly $80 million of that revenue that’s expected to be set aside for community reinvestment, Evers proposed using $10 million for grants “to promote diversity and advance equity and inclusion,” $10 million for community health worker grants, $10 million for “equity action plan grants,” $5 million to support businesses in underserved communities and about $35 million in school sparsity grants.

Unlike some legalization laws in other states, the plan does not appear to set aside any licenses or provide extra scoring points for businesses run by people from communities most impacted by the war on drugs.

“Our budget legalizes marijuana and also creates a pathway for people who’ve been previously convicted of marijuana-related offenses to repeal or reduce their sentences, which is how we work to promote equity, and it also creates a community reinvestment fund to invest those dollars from legalization into equity grants,” Barnes, the lieutenant governor, said at Wednesday’s event.

“We know that we need systemic change in Wisconsin, we’ve needed it for a few decades now,” he continued, noting that the state’s criminal justice approach “has disproportionately impacted communities of color, particularly Black and Indigenous communities in Wisconsin.”

Black people in Wisconsin were nearly 4.2 times more likely than white people for simple marijuana possession, according to a 2020 ACLU report. Four counties—Ozaukee, Manitowoc, Washington and Waukesha, showed among the country’s worst racial disparities in cannabis arrests.

“When will this happen?” the governor said of legalization on Twitter Wednesday. “When your legislators agree with me on this issue. So feel free to contact them. I was just talking to a legislator yesterday, a Republican who indicated that he believes that legalizing recreational marijuana is the right thing to do. It’s not just a Democrat thing. It’s a thing that people of Wisconsin have said they want.”

Despite Republican leaders’ opposition to legalizing marijuana outright or to including any cannabis reforms in the budget, Vos and others have expressed openness to considering medical cannabis as a standalone matter. And other GOP lawmakers have filed bills to decriminalize marijuana possession. But none of those ideas have been given hearings or votes so far this session.

Former GOP House Speaker John Boehner Says He’s Open To Using Marijuana

Photo by Sam Doucette on Unsplash

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor. He has covered cannabis as a journalist since 2011, most recently as a senior news editor for Leafly.

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Senate’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Aims To Let Researchers Study Marijuana From Dispensaries

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Senate leaders released a massive and long-anticipated infrastructure bill late on Sunday—and after weeks of bipartisan negotiations, the legislation includes provisions that aim to allow researchers to study the actual marijuana that consumers are purchasing from state-legal dispensaries instead of having to use only government-grown cannabis.

The bill also encourages states that have enacted legalization laws to educate people about impaired driving.

The language on scientists’ access to retail cannabis products was attached to an earlier version of infrastructure legislation in a Senate committee, and it’s substantively the same as a provision included in a House-passed infrastructure bill.

The measure makes it so the transportation secretary would need to work with the attorney general and secretary of health and human services to develop a public report within two years of the bill’s enactment that includes recommendations on allowing scientists to access retail-level marijuana to study impaired driving.

The cannabis provision stipulates that the report must contain a recommendation on establishing a national clearinghouse to “collect and distribute samples and strains of marijuana for scientific research that includes marijuana and products containing marijuana lawfully available to patients or consumers in a state on a retail basis.”

It specifies that scientists from states that have not yet enacted legalization should also be able to access to dispensary products that are being sold in jurisdictions that have ended prohibition.

Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) sponsored the committee amendment that contains these reforms, and he argued that the changes are necessary in order to promote research into impaired driving and create a national standard for addressing such activity.

Advocates have been waiting to see whether the committee-approved language would make it into the bipartisan negotiated bill. And the fact that it did stay intact following extensive negotiations between Democrats and Republicans who worked to craft the deal is significant. The Senate is expected to take up the bill on the floor this week.

If it passes, the amended legislation would then need to go back to the House for consideration before heading to President Joe Biden’s desk.

The bill says the cannabis research report must also broadly examine “federal statutory and regulatory barriers” to studies on marijuana-impaired driving.

The transportation legislation also contains a separate section that would require legal marijuana states—and only those states—to consider methods of educating people about and discouraging impaired driving from cannabis. Advocates take issue with that language simply because it targets legalized jurisdictions while ignoring the fact that marijuana-impaired driving takes place regardless of its legal status.

An earlier version of the transportation bill cleared the House last Congress with identical marijuana provisions but did not advance in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Since its initial introduction last year, some steps have been taken to resolve that issue. Most notably, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently notified several companies that it is moving toward approving their applications to become federally authorized marijuana manufacturers for research purposes.

That marks a significant development—and one of the first cannabis-related moves to come out of the Biden administration. There is currently a monopoly on federal cannabis cultivation, with the University of Mississippi having operated the only approved facility for the past half-century.

But that move from DEA would still not free up researchers to access marijuana products from state-legal retailers in the way the transportation legislation would encourage if enacted.

While advocates are supportive of measures to reduce impaired driving, some have raised issues with the implication that legalizing cannabis increases the risk of people driving while under the influence. Research isn’t settled on that subject.

A federally funded study recently promoted by the National Institute of Justice also found that the amount of THC in a person’s system after consuming marijuana is not an accurate predictor of impairment.

Colorado Could Vote On Marijuana Tax Hike To Fund Education Programs After Campaign Submits Signatures

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Colorado Could Vote On Marijuana Tax Hike To Fund Education Programs After Campaign Submits Signatures

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A Colorado campaign appears to have submitted enough signatures to place a ballot initiative before voters in November that would raise marijuana taxes to fund programs that are designed to reduce the education gap for low-income students.

The Colorado Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress (LEAP) measure would give low- and middle-income families a $1,500 stipend to have school-aged children participate in after-school programs, tutoring and summer learning activities.

The state excise tax on sales adult-use cannabis products would increased from 15 percent to 20 percent to fund the effort.

Supporters say this policy is especially needed as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has exacerbated income-related learning gaps for students. But some marijuana industry stakeholders—and even the state’s largest teachers union—have expressed concern about the proposal.

In any case, the LEAP campaign turned in about 200,000 signatures for the measure to the secretary of state’s office on Friday. It only needs 124,632 valid signatures to qualify.

Monica Colbert Burton, a LEAP campaign representative, told Colorado Public Radio that the sizable signature turn-in “really demonstrates the broad support around the state for this issue.”

“The learning loss that we’ve seen during the pandemic is so much higher than we’ve ever seen before particularly for our low-income families and our students that don’t have access to the same resources,” Colbert Burton said.

Beyond imposing the extra five percent tax on cannabis, the initiative also calls for a repurposing of state revenue that it generates from leases and rents for operations held on state land. Advocates estimate that the measure would translate into $150 million in additional funding annually.

But according to an analysis from Westword, adding the tax to the existing 15 percent special tax would’ve only created $80 million in added revenue based on 2020 sales figures.

Some stakeholders and cannabis advocates have come out strongly against the proposal.

“That this initiative is being pushed at a moment in Colorado when the cannabis industry is trying to create more equity and bring economic growth to marginalized communities harmed by the racist Drug War is especially tone deaf,” Hashim Coates, executive director of the trade group Black Brown and Red Badged, said in a press release. “But that is to be expected when the backers of this measure are affluent white men.”

“Let’s just be perfectly clear: this is a regressive tax—which always harms Black and Brown consumers the most. This is going to a voucher program—which always harms Black and Brown communities the most,” Coates said. “And it’s targeting the marijuana industry as a magical bottomless piggy bank—which will devastate the Black and Brown owned cannabis businesses the most. Can we just let the black community breathe for a moment after this pandemic before we start taxing them to death?”

The measure is being endorsed by a two former governors, about 20 sitting state lawmakers, several former legislative leaders and several other educational organizations.

But in June, the Colorado Education Association withdrew its support for the proposal over concerns about how it would be implemented.

The next step for the initiative is for the secretary of state’s office to verify that there are enough valid signature in the batch LEAP supporters turned in.

This development comes days after Colorado officials announced the launch of a new office to provide economic support for the state’s marijuana industry.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

The division, which was created as part of a bill signed into law in March, is being funded by cannabis tax revenue. It will focus on creating “new economic development opportunities, local job creation, and community growth for the diverse population across Colorado.”

Gov. Jared Polis (D) had initially asked lawmakers back in January to create a new a new cannabis advancement program as part of his budget proposal.

Beyond this program, the state has worked to achieve equity and repair the harms of prohibition in other ways.

For example, Polis signed a bill in May to double the marijuana possession limit for adults in the state—and he directed state law enforcement to identify people with prior convictions for the new limit who he may be able to pardon.

The governor signed an executive order last year that granted clemency to almost 3,000 people convicted of possessing one ounce or less of marijuana.

Funding for the new office is made possible by tax revenue from a booming cannabis market in the state. In the first three months of 2021 alone, the state saw more than half a billion dollars in marijuana sales.

The lack of access to federal financial support for marijuana businesses became a pronounced issue amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the Small Business Administration saying it’s unable to offer those companies its services, as well as those that provide ancillary services such as accounting and law firms.

Polis wrote a letter to a member of the Colorado congressional delegation last year seeking a policy change to give the industry the same resources that were made available to other legal markets.

California Senator Seeks Federal Clarification On Medical Marijuana Use In Hospitals

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California Senator Seeks Federal Clarification On Medical Marijuana Use In Hospitals

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A California senator is asking the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide clarification on whether hospitals and other healthcare facilities in legal marijuana states can allow terminally ill patients to use medical cannabis without jeopardizing federal funding.

State Sen. Ben Hueso (D) on Thursday sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure inquiring about the policy. Confusion about possible implications for permitting marijuana consumption in health facilities led pro-legalization Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to veto a bill meant to address the issue in 2019.

Hueso refiled a nearly identical version of the legislation for this session, and it’s already passed the full Senate and one Assembly committee. It’s now awaiting action on the Assembly floor before potentially being sent to Newsom’s desk.

“Ryan’s Law would require that hospitals and certain types of healthcare facilities in the State of California allow a terminally-ill patient to use medical cannabis for treatment and/or pain relief,” the senator wrote in the letter to the federal officials, with whom he is asking to meet to discuss the issue. “Currently, whether or not medical cannabis is permitted is left up to hospital policy, and this creates issues for patients and their families who seek alternative, more natural medication options in their final days.”

Hospitals that receive CMS accreditation are generally expected to comply with local, state and federal laws in order to qualify for certain reimbursements. And so because marijuana remains federally illegal, “many healthcare facilities have adopted policies prohibiting cannabis on their grounds out of a perceived risk of losing federal funding if they were to allow it.”

But Hueso said that his office received a letter from CMS several months ago stating that there are no specific federal regulations in place that specifically address this issue and that it isn’t aware of any cases where funding has been pulled because a hospital allows patients to use medical cannabis.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Additionally, because the Justice Department has been barred under annually renewed spending legislation from using its funds to interfere in the implementation of state-level medical marijuana programs, the senator said, “we believe the risk of federal intervention is little to none.”

“This confirmation from CMS been quite a breakthrough and we are optimistic it will alleviate the Governor’s concerns,” the letter continues. “However, I want to underscore that, prior to receiving this response, even the Governor of California was under the impression that CMS rules prohibited hospitals and healthcare facilities from allowing medical cannabis use.”

“Undoubtedly other states are struggling with this issue, too,” it says. “As more states decriminalize cannabis and even create recreational markets, we must not forget to also update the books for the most important consumers of all—patients.”

“While ideally the federal government will remove cannabis from its Schedule I designation, I appreciate that this is a lengthy and complex process. In the interim, it would be extremely helpful if you could provide clarification that assures Medicare/Medicaid providers that they will not lose reimbursements for allowing medical cannabis use on their premises. This clarification would go a long way to help hospital staff, security, above all, patients.”

Becerra, while previously serving as California attorney general and as a member of Congress, demonstrated a track record of supporting marijuana law reform.

Meanwhile, there are efforts in both chambers of Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) are currently soliciting feedback on draft legalization legislation they introduced this month.

Meanwhile, a separate House bill to federally legalize marijuana and promote social equity in the industry was reintroduced in May.

The legislation, sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), was filed with a number of changes compared to the version that was approved by the chamber last year.

Read the letter from the California senator to Becerra below: 

Marijuana hospital letter t… by Marijuana Moment

Rhode Island House Speaker Says ‘No Consensus’ On Marijuana Legalization, But It’s ‘Workable’

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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