Governor Evers believes it is time to join other states, including two of our neighbors, who have legalized recreational marijuana by treating marijuana much in the same way we treat alcohol. The governor’s budget will propose legalizing the sale of marijuana for recreational use if it is sold by a marijuana retailer holding a permit issued by the Department of Revenue (DOR). The proposal also allows purchases exempt from retail level excise and sales taxes by a person registered with DOR and permitted by a doctor to make purchases for medicinal purposes. All sales of recreational marijuana to minors would still be prohibited. According to a 2019 Marquette Law School Poll, the majority of registered Wisconsin voters believe marijuana should be legal.
The proposal places restrictions on the THC concentration an individual can have while operating a vehicle. Additionally, the proposal modifies criminal penalties for marijuana-related crimes to align with legalization. The proposal creates a process for individuals serving sentences or previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes to have an opportunity to repeal or reduce their sentences for nonviolent minor offenses. For many Wisconsinites, marijuana legalization will help alleviate chronic pain through medical use. There is also some evidence to suggest that states with legalized marijuana experience a reduction in opioid-related deaths.
The governor’s proposal will increase revenue, create jobs, and reduce criminal justice system costs. The same racial disparities present in the criminal justice system at large play out in marijuana-related arrests, charges, and convictions, and legalizing is one step towards alleviating that disparity. Finally, legalization will help create a controlled market and ensure a safe product is available for both recreational and medicinal users.