The next stop for the legalization bandwagon might be the Badger State.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers unveiled details of his budget proposal on Monday, which included a proposal to regulate and tax marijuana that he says will produce a windfall of revenue for the state.
“My 2021-23 budget proposes regulating and taxing marijuana much like we do alcohol,” Evers said in a post on Twitter. “States across the country have moved forward with legalization, and there’s no reason Wisconsin should be left behind.”
In a statement reported on by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Evers, a Democrat in his first term, said that regulating and taxing pot like alcohol “ensures a controlled market and safe product are available for both recreational and medicinal users and can open the door for countless opportunities for us to reinvest in our communities and create a more equitable state.”
The newspaper reported that Evers is bullish on the recreational marijuana proposal, which he believes could generate nearly $166 million by the summer of 2022. “About $70 million of that would be used to help rural schools and programs for communities that have been disproportionately affected by past marijuana enforcement and underserved groups of people like communities of color, women and veterans, according to the governor’s office,” the Journal Sentinel said.
Given that Republicans control the Wisconsin legislature, the recreational proposal has dim prospects for passage—but there could be hope for a medical marijuana bill.
Cannabis Reform Spreading Throughout The Country
Nearly 40 states have legalized medical cannabis for qualifying patients, while a growing number have gone even further by lifting the prohibition on recreational pot use. The latter group includes two of Wisconsin’s neighbors in the Great Lakes region, Illinois and Michigan, where recreational marijuana use is legal for adults aged 21 and older.
In a series of tweets on Monday, Evers said that the people have his back on this particular matter.
“Folks, we know the majority of Wisconsinites—nearly 60%—support legalizing marijuana. We also know legalizing marijuana would be good for our economy, help those suffering from chronic pain and create a more equitable state,” the governor said. “So this year, let’s get it done.”
The poll Evers appeared to be citing was a 2019 survey from Marquette University, which showed that 59 percent of Wisconsinites supported legalization—a finding that dovetails with other polling data across the country.
The Journal Sentinel reported that Evers’ plan would require distributors and retailers to “to obtain permits from the state Department of Revenue. Marijuana producers and processors would need to get permits from both the Department of Revenue and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection,” and that those regulatory agencies “would test their products for potency and contaminants, including mold and pesticides.”
Adults aged 21 and up could have up to two ounces in possession, while the state of Wisconsin “would levy a 15% excise tax on wholesale marijuana sales and a 10% excise tax on retail sales.” Nearly $80 million of the revenue generated in the first year would go toward funding rural schools.