Wisconsin has been pushing for legal cannabis, but it looks like now, those hopes may be gone. The Senate leader has stated this week that they will not be making moves to legalize, as there is not enough support from Republicans to back it up.
“We don’t have support from the caucus. That’s pretty clear, that we don’t have 17 votes in the caucus for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes [to] legalize it,” Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said regarding the decision.
LeMahieu is personally against the measure as a Republican, and in general, while some Republican senators support cannabis, there is not enough support across the board to be able to move forward.
“I think that discussion needs to be done at the federal level and not have some rogue state doing it without actual science behind it,” LeMahieu said.
Currently, Republicans control the Wisconsin Senate at a rate of 20-12, soon to be 21-12 when Representative John Jagler, based in Watertown, joins the Senate after winning his special election. For this reason, it is difficult for things like COVID relief and regulation, legal cannabis, and other partisan issues normally backed by Democrats to be passed.
While nearly all the Senate Democrats in Wisconsin support legal cannabis, there is still not enough support across party lines.
However, there is still hope that medical cannabis legalization will be taken up, but LeMahieu will only support it if there is enough backing to pass it with only Republicans, in order to make sure there is bipartisan support.
Is There Hope For Wisconsin?
Wisconsin first started talking seriously about legalizing cannabis when Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, proposed the idea as a way to boost the state budget following COVID.
“Legalizing and taxing marijuana in Wisconsin—just like we do already with alcohol—ensures a controlled market and safe product are available for both recreational and medical users and can open the door for countless opportunities for us to reinvest in our communities and create a more equitable state,” Evers claimed back in February regarding the merits of legalizing cannabis.
And Evers definitely does have support. A total of 83 percent of voters in Wisconsin at least want to legalize medical cannabis. Fifty-nine percent of state residents support recreational cannabis. Still, Republican lawmakers are not quite there yet, as many in the Senate think that even medically legal cannabis is a bad idea.
Democratic Senator Melissa Agard was the one to pose a bill that would legalize recreational cannabis, but Wisconsin is not ready— a fact that saddens Agard. “It’s really clear that many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are out of touch with what the vast majority of the people of Wisconsin are asking for us to do,” Agard said. “I believe that if Republican leadership stopped putting their thumbs down on their caucus members we would be able to move this policy forward.”
“It’s disappointing Republicans would rather play politics than listen to the overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites who support Gov. Evers’ Badger Bounceback plan to expand BadgerCare, increase investments in our schools, and tax and regulate marijuana much like we already do with alcohol,” echoed Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback in a statement.
Cudaback is referring to the plans the governor has to extend medical care in the state and pay for things like schools using taxed, regulated, legal cannabis.
It seems that at least for now, Wisconsin won’t be getting a legal cannabis market, and maybe not even a medical one. However, the support from residents and Democrats remain, and in the event nation-wide legalization occurs, Wisconsin won’t be able to keep legal cannabis out forever.