February 24, 2021 03:30 pm ETEstimated Read Time: 6 Minutes
Wisconsin is notorious for frigid cold weather. During the winter months, the state is blanketed in a sheet of ice and snow—the reflection of the white snow and ice light up the day and night. Wisconsin also has a rich drinking and bar hopping scene. But the college blackout culture and morning hangovers could soon be altered if a little bit of green could be added to the white wintery season. The governor recently introduced Wisconsin cannabis legalization plans that could mean great things for the state. Wisconsin is broken up into over 190 cities, towns, and villages across the state. They currently have cannabis decriminalization laws in some cities and towns like Monona and Madison.
A Short Wisconsin Cannabis History
Even though cannabis is not legal in Wisconsin, Wisconsin is home to the longest-running festival supporting cannabis. The Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival attracts thousands each year. The goal is to educate the public about the health and safety of cannabis as well as the detrimental effects that draconian marijuana prohibition has had on society. What started off as a collective of volunteers protesting the arrests of individuals for cannabis has grown into a 501c for profit that has become the longest-running cannabis festival in America. Even though cannabis is illegal in Wisconsin, some places in the state have decided to take matters into their own hands regarding positive cannabis reform.
Back in 2017, city council members in Monona, Wisconsin, passed an ordinance removing all municipal fines for consumption in private spaces and private possession of cannabis. This was great news for folks that live in Monona, except for the fact, there was no access to legal cannabis. In January 2021, voters in the state’s capital, Madison, voted at a local level to decriminalize cannabis for adults over the age of 18 by abolishing many of the local policies related to cannabis consumption and possession. In late 2020, Rock County Wisconsin also chose to reduce fines and penalties related to cannabis possession.
Enter New Leadership
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is a first-term Democrat that supports legalizing recreational cannabis for the potential hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the state of Wisconsin. In a statement to the media, Gov. Evers stated the following;
“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 medicinal users and can open the door for countless opportunities for us to reinvest in our communities and create a more equitable state. Frankly, red and blue states across the country have moved forward with legalization and there is no reason Wisconsin should be left behind when we know it’s supported by a majority of Wisconsinites.”
What is Being Proposed for Legalization in Wisconsin
The governor’s current proposal would allow adult residents of Wisconsin to possess up to 2 oz. of cannabis and grow six plants at home. Control of cannabis would be turned over to the Department of Revenue along with the Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection. The opposition clings to age-old lies and draconian viewpoints of the past citing things such as the cost of drug-related crashes, school dropouts, and hospital costs. These statements have also been supported by Kevin Sabet, who used to be one of the top officials at the Office of National Drug Control Policy. We see how well these people’s viewpoints have helped our country so far.
The Numbers of it All
If the legalization plan goes into effect as proposed, here are some of the numbers surrounding the market based on what is being proposed. Retail cannabis would be subject to a 15% excise tax in addition to the standard 10% sales tax that would be applied to cannabis sales. Medical cannabis, however, would be exempt from sales tax. It is estimated that these taxes would bring in roughly $165.8 million in annual tax revenue from the sales of cannabis. Of that money, here is how it would be distributed as outlined in current legislation.
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$80 million – Community Reinvestment
$35 million – School Sparsity Grants
$10 million – Grants to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Industry
$5 million – Business Support in Underserved Communities
The state could also stand to gain millions more in revenue off of the sales of production, testing, distribution, retail, and processing licenses that would be required for various businesses operating in the industry.
So What is Next for Wisconsin Cannabis Legalization?
Wisconsin at one time was the largest producer of cannabis in our nation. Cannabis in the form of industrial hemp, that is. Wisconsinites started cultivating hemp in 1908 when University researchers began this endeavor. Nine years later, in 1917, Wisconsin had 7,000 acres of hemp being cultivated. The demand for hemp during World war II lead Wisconsin to have an impressive 42 hemp mills scattered across the state.
Being home to the longest-running cannabis festival in the United States and at one time the largest hemp-producing state in America, Wisconsin now has a governor that supports legalizing recreational adult-use cannabis. On top of that, 59% of state residents say they approve of adult-use cannabis legalization. Let’s not forget to mention that 83% approve of medical cannabis legalization. How much longer will the state of Wisconsin allow its lawmakers to cling to the draconian past? It’s time for a change Wisconsin, you deserve better than what lawmakers there seem to believe you do.
Unfortunately, the people could tell the state of Wisconsin they wanted cannabis legalization until they were blue in the face, and it still might not happen. That’s because the people in the state of Wisconsin do not get to directly vote on issues. Instead, issues such as cannabis legalization would have to go through the legislature. The odds of a recreational cannabis bill passing a Republican-dominated legislature are slim.
Wisconsin is Stuck in the Middle and the Past
Wisconsin’s neighbor to the west, Iowa, is even eyeballing recreational cannabis legalization after seeing a successful medical cannabis program. Minnesota has a medical cannabis program. Retail and medical cannabis are both legal in neighboring states Illinois and Michigan. Then there’s Canada to the north, and well, you guessed it, cannabis is legal there too. It’s like something is holding Wisconsin back from moving into modern times. Could it really be that the republican controlled senate is the one thing keeping Wisconsin stuck in the draconian past? When the people want change, but the elected leaders don’t listen, what do you do? Contact them daily and express your frustration.
Ashley Priest is a patient, mother, entrepreneur, and activist that fights to end prohibition globally for a better future for all. Ashley has a passion for sharing education pertaining to the goddess plant known as cannabis. She believes that a single seed can tip the scales and that together through education we can end the stigma that is preventing cannabis from flowering to its full potential globally.
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