Evers’ budget to include changes to marijuana laws

Last updated on June 27th, 2019 at 12:49 pm

Gov. Tony Evers is proposing a series of changes to Wisconsin’s marijuana laws, including legalizing medical use, decriminalizing possession of small amounts, expungement procedures for those convicted of possession crimes and changing standards for cannabidiol or CBD oil.

“This shouldn’t be a Republican issue or Democratic issue, and I look forward to working on both sides of the aisle to pass this proposal in my budget,” Evers said

The governor had signaled in January he planned to move towards legalizing marijuana, but his plans drew mixed reactions from Republicans. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he was open to the idea, but Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he did not think enough support existed in his chamber.

Others, like Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, said the issue should not be included in the state budget, according to a report from WISN, a media partner of BizTimes Milwaukee.

Wisconsin is currently in the minority of states with no broad laws legalizing medical or recreational use of marijuana. That has not stopped a number of businesses in the state from finding sales opportunities in the growing number of places with legalized weed. BizTimes detailed some of those successes in a cover story last year.

Legalizing marijuana has generally received broad public support. Voters in 16 counties and two cities approved non-binding referendums asking about medial or recreational use. A Marquette University Law School poll in January found 58 percent of registered voters would like to see the drug fully legalized and regulated like alcohol.

Just 45 percent of Republicans in the poll supported full legalization, compared to 59 percent of independents and 71 percent of Democrats.

Support for legalizing also skews younger with 79 percent of those 18 to 29 years old supporting it. Among those 30 to 44 support drops to 69 percent, falling to 58 percent for those 45 to 59 and 44 percent for those over 60.

Respondents in the city of Milwaukee were more likely to support full legalization but majorities in the Madison, and Green Bay and Appleton media markets supported it, as did 56 percent of the rest of the state.

Evers’ proposal stops short of full legalization, however.

The governor is proposing to allow physicians to recommend the use of medical marijuana to address symptoms related to cancer, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, severe nausea and seizures.

Evers is also proposing to align Wisconsin laws on CBD oil with federal standards instead of requiring a yearly physician certification.

“As a cancer survivor, I know the side effects of a major illness can make everyday tasks a challenge. People shouldn’t be treated as criminals for accessing a desperately-needed medication that can alleviate their suffering,” Evers said.

The proposal would also decriminalize the possession, manufacture or distribution of less than 25 grams of marijuana. It would also prevent local municipalities from implementing their own penalties for possession of that amount.

Finally, the proposal would create a procedure to expunge the records of those convicted of possessing or distributing less than 25 grams of marijuana, provided the individual had completed their sentence or probation.

“Too many people, often persons of color, spend time in our criminal justice system just for possessing small amounts of marijuana. That doesn’t make our communities stronger or safer,” Evers said.

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Arthur Thomas
Arthur covers manufacturing for BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.