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Wisconsin Gov Unveils Marijuana Legalization Budget Proposal To A Hostile Legislature

The governor of Wisconsin unveiled his plans to legalize marijuana through the state budget but faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled legislature, at least as far as recreational legalization is concerned.

Under Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal, cannabis would be legal for adults 21 and older to buy, possess and grow for personal use. The legislation would allow possession of up to two ounces of marijuana, while nonresidents would be limited to a quarter ounce. It further allows for individuals to grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use at home, with a maximum of 12 mature plants per household. The governor’s budget proposal goes on to outline the regulatory structure of a legal cannabis market in Wisconsin.

“The Governor believes it is time to join other states, including two of our neighbors, who have legalized recreational marijuana,” a press statement from Evers’ office reads.

Gov. Evers has made no secret of his intention to legalize marijuana through the budget in Wisconsin as a way to bolster the state’s ailing economy. In urging Wisconsin lawmakers to act on the issue, Evers’ lamented lost tax dollars to neighboring states that had taken the leap to legalize recreational marijuana.

“I’m particularly tired of seeing our tax dollars going across the border to northern Michigan or Illinois to go buy marijuana,” Evers said. “I think the time has come. I hope the legislature will agree with us.”

Evers suggests a 15 percent wholesale excise tax on marijuana, as well as a 10 percent retail excise tax on sales that would not apply to medical marijuana purchases. A fiscal impact analysis report estimates annual tax revenues of $165.8 million in Wisconsin by fiscal year 2022-23 if Evers’ proposal is implemented. Forty percent of this money would go to the state’s general fund, with 60 percent earmarked for a newly-established “community reinvestment fund.”

Of this projected $80 million fund, almost half would go toward school sparsity grants, $10 million to community health worker grants, $10 million for grants that “promote diversity and advance equality and inclusion,” $10 million for “equity action plan grants” and the remaining $5 million to support businesses in deprived areas.

While a laudable effort, Evers’ budget proposal is unlikely to make much headway among the GOP-controlled legislature. The official Twitter feed of Wisconsin Assembly GOP Majority described Evers’ measure as a “bounce backward budget,” while Sen. Majority Leader made clear to WKOW that he’s against recreational marijuana legalization. He did, however, leave open the possibility of legalizing medical cannabis.

Both adult use and medical cannabis legalization enjoy overwhelming support in Wisconsin. The state held advisory referendums on the issue in 2018 in 16 counties and two cities, comprising the majority of Wisconsin’s population, and while the results were non-binding all jurisdictions voted in favor. A more recent statewide poll put support for legalizing and regulating cannabis at 58 percent.

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