Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has promised to roll legal weed into his new state budget proposal after voters overwhelmingly showed their support for legalization.
During last week's midterm elections, three Wisconsin counties and five municipalities voted on advisory questions asking voters if they supported legalizing adult-use cannabis. The response was a resounding yes: each measure was approved by a very wide margin. These questions were approved in Milwaukee and Dane counties, two of the most populous regions in the state, and several major cities like Kenosha and Racine.
But unlike the statewide ballot measures that allowed Maryland and Missouri to legalize weed last week, these eight local measures are non-binding resolutions that do not officially change state law. They do clearly indicate that a strong majority of Wisconsin voters want their elected officials to finally legalize weed, however.
Wisconsin is one of the very few US states that continues to prohibit both medical and adult-use cannabis. The state technically has a “medical marijuana” program, but it only legalizes the use of low-THC CBD oils that are already legal under federal law. So it's not much of a "legal" cannabis program, especially when compared to most of Wisconsin’s neighbors, including Canada, Illinois, and Michigan, which have fully legalized weed.
This week, Governor Evers made it clear that he is willing to listen to the constituents who just re-elected him to office. In a recent interview with News 3 Now, Evers said that his budget proposal for the next three years “includes legalizing marijuana,” which will give lawmakers “a chance to talk about that and see if that’s something we want to do,” Marijuana Moment reports.
“At some point in time, the will of the people will become the law of the land,” he added. “I sure the hell hope it happens within the next four years because we just can’t, as a state, continue to say, ‘well, 80 percent of the people want X’ and we try to do X and then nothing happens... I just think that’s an irresponsible way to operate a state. We’re not giving up on any of those issues. The will of the people is the law of the land.”
Wisconsin legislators have continually failed to enshrine the will of the people into law, though. A solid majority of voters in the state's most populous counties have approved non-binding legalization ballot questions for several years. And according to a recent poll, 69% of registered voters in the entire state believe that cannabis should be fully legal. But despite this overwhelming support, Republican lawmakers have shut down every attempt at legalization.
And this year may not be any different. Evers also included plans for full adult use and medical cannabis legalization in his 2021 state budget, but the GOP-controlled legislature immediately stripped these proposals from the final bill. And although voters approved Evers' bid for re-election and said yes to legalization, they also voted to give Republicans majority control of the state legislature again.
With prohibitionist GOP leaders fully entrenched, Evers' plans to legalize may likely end up on the cutting-room floor yet again. State Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R) has previously indicated that the state will “likely” legalize weed at some point, so there's at least a glimmer of hope that lawmakers will finally listen to the will of the people this year.