Gov. Tony Evers proposes legalizing recreational marijuana in 2021-23 biennial budget

MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Tony Evers has proposed legalizing recreational use of marijuana as part of his 2021-23 biennial budget.

Taxes generated from marijuana sales are expected to generate more than $165 million each year starting in the second year of Evers’ biennial budget. Evers’ proposal includes setting aside $80 million in generated revenue to invest in communities throughout Wisconsin via a Community Reinvestment Fund.

“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,” Evers said. “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.”

The fund would provide $30 million in equity grants through the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Department of Administration, and the Department of Children and Families. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation would receive $5 million in funding for underserved communities. More than $34 million would go toward supporting small, rural school districts.

Any remaining funds would be allocated to the state’s general fund.

Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison) has shown support for Evers’ proposal, saying she’s “thrilled” it’s included in Evers’ latest budget.

“The most dangerous thing about cannabis in Wisconsin is that it is illegal.  This is the right time to legalize and tax marijuana use in Wisconsin like we already do with alcohol. I am thrilled that Governor Evers’ has included this measure in his budget,” Agard said. “At a time when we need to grow additional state revenue, this is the fiscally responsible decision for Wisconsin. At a time when we need to address our egregious racial disparities, this is the moral decision for Wisconsin. And at a time when our agricultural community needs a boost, this is the right statewide decision for Wisconsin.”

A 2019 Marquette University Law School poll found that nearly 60% of Wisconsinites support legalization of recreational marijuana use. About 83% of Wisconsinites support legalization of medical marijuana.

If legalized, marijuana would be taxed and regulated by the Department of Revenue and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Individuals would need to be 21 years of age to purchase the substance. The proposal also includes a path for medical marijuana users to purchase the substance without paying retail tax.

Wisconsin residents would be limited to purchasing and possessing no more than two ounces of marijuana and six plants for personal use, according to a news release. Nonresidents would be able to possess up to a quarter of an ounce of marijuana.