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Gov. Evers has proposed legalizing recreational marijuana

Posted at 6:47 PM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 19:47:36-05

MADISON, Wis (NBC 26) -- Advocates say it's a move to join the modern world, but others say it's a step too far. That's some of the varied reactions to Governor Ever's proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in Wisconsin from state representatives on both sides of the aisle.

There are 15 states that have legalized recreational marijuana use, and Governor Evers would like to see Wisconsin follow suit.

"I think the Governor has joined the modern world and realized that we are safer and smarter and can raise revenue for key programs by regulating and taxing marijuana," said Rep. Gordon Hintz a Democrat from Oshkosh.

Representative Hintz says the state could potentially benefit in tax revenue from the move. The Governor's proposal claims it could bring an additional 165 million dollars a year into the state if the proposal goes through.

"It's nothing to sneeze at. Especially if the money goes into programs that we otherwise would not have been able to fund."

Under the governor's proposal, about 150 million of the tax revenues collected would go toward equity grants, aid for rural school districts, and funding grants for underserved communities. Money other democrats say has been well used by our neighbors who have legalized recreational marijuana.

"If you look at Michigan and Illinois, two states bordering us, both of them have legalized and they have seen all sorts of benefits. From economic benefits and reduction of costs for imprisonment, and things like that," adds Representative Lee Snodgrass a Democrat from Appleton.

But not everyone is satisfied with the proposal, and some are questioning why it was included in the state's budget proposal.

"This is a big issue that deserves our attention and consideration of course. But the state budget isn't the place where we make these types of massive public policy and societal decisions," said Representative David Steffens a Republican from Green Bay.

Rep. Steffen says he is interested in having a discussion about legalizing medical marijuana and perhaps even decriminalizing marijuana. But as far as legalizing it for recreational use, well, he and other Republicans say Wisconsin still has a long way to go.

"What I'm hopeful for is we can have a thoughtful discussion," said Steffen.

"I think the full-on recreational legalization is just a bridge too far for too many of my colleagues," adds Representative Shae Sortwell of Two Rivers. Sortwell, says the proposal currently on the table would serve the people of Wisconsin better if it were to go through the traditional vetting process, rather than the Governor attempting to pass it within the state's budget proposal.