Wisconsin Rep Looks to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis

Democratic Rep. Melissa Sargent introduced a new bill this week that would put Wisconsin alongside Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington as a state that has legalized adult-use marijuana.

The bill would include a 25% excise tax on the drug that would help boost the state’s budget by pulling in an estimated $177 million over two years. Interestingly, the bill comes at the same time that several Wisconsin tribes are considering the production of marijuana or its derivatives on their reservations. These tribes would likely support such measures, as it would provide greater security in legalization.

While Republicans control both houses, Sargent is hoping to convince numerous conservatives to vote beyond party lines. Some Republicans view federal cannabis laws as a violation of states’ rights, suggesting that the government shouldn’t be involved in matters that don’t hurt anyone. In reality, most Republicans still stop short of legalization at decriminalization – as is the case with Paul Ryan.

It’s also highly unlikely that the bill will pass through this legislative session, particularly with Gov. Scott Walker opposing it. Walker, who is preparing for a presidential run, has repeatedly sided with law enforcement officials in stating that marijuana is a gateway drug to more dangerous options. As a result, he has serious concerns about legalization, even with other states doing so.

In the end, the bill’s introduction represents a step in the right direction and could help ease concerns for introducing similar bills in the future. Decriminalization of marijuana may be an intermediary step on the way to full legalization, while perhaps additional states approving the drug in 2016 could boost confidence that it’s a relatively safe measure capable of increasing tax income for the state.

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