A GOP-led Wisconsin joint committee on Thursday voted to scrap the governor’s budget proposal to legalize marijuana in the state—one of nearly 400 provisions that were eliminated.
In a vote of 12-4, the Joint Finance Committee removed language that would establish an adult-use cannabis market and medical marijuana system. The move was widely anticipated in the Republican-controlled legislature, and it’s led to calls from Gov. Tony Evers (D) and other Democratic policymakers to have residents put pressure on their representatives to support the administration’s agenda.
Pass it on.
— Wisconsin Democrats (@WisDems) May 6, 2021
Evers released details of his proposed legalization legislation through his budget request in February. It would have allowed adults 21 and older, or qualifying patients, to purchase, possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use. Residents could 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.
Other budget items that the committee eliminated include ones to expand Medicaid, make it easier to have criminal records expunged and reduce the state’s prison population.
58% of the state supports marijuana legalization. The tax revenue could be reinvested in our communities.https://t.co/gAl8WzZSzf
— Ben Wikler (@benwikler) May 6, 2021
“Today, Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee voted to remove nearly 400 initiatives from our budget—including items like BadgerCare expansion, marijuana legalization, and bold steps to address the climate crisis,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) said. “They’re putting our economic recovery and our future at risk.”
Today, Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee voted to remove nearly 400 initiatives from our budget—including items like BadgerCare expansion, marijuana legalization, and bold steps to address the climate crisis.
They're putting our economic recovery and our future at risk. https://t.co/TZ9AXLuPat
— Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes (@LGMandelaBarnes) May 6, 2021
This is the second time that the governor has included marijuana reform in his budget request only to have that provision stripped by the Republican-led legislature.
Republicans are blocking legislation on items with broad popular support, such as Medicaid expansion, gun safety, and legalizing marijuana. They wouldn’t have to be tucked into the budget if they could have a hearing. We could just listen, debate, and vote. You know, democracy. https://t.co/wccRueACYZ
— State Rep. Deb Andraca (@RepAndraca) May 6, 2021
Evers held a virtual town hall event last month where he discussed the cannabis proposal, emphasizing that polling demonstrates that Wisconsin residents back the policy change.
“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.”
Prior to the event, he released a video where he complained about hearing from the governor of neighboring Illinois, where legal sales launched in January 2020.
“Frankly I’m kind of tired of talking to the governor from Illinois,” he said. “Whenever I get with him, he thanks me for having Wisconsinites cross the border to buy marijuana.”
Locally, Wisconsin voters in three jurisdictions last year approved non-binding advisory questions in favor of marijuana legalization. Those moves came 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.
GOP lawmakers have filed bills to decriminalize marijuana possession in the state. But none of those proposals have advanced so far this session.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.