Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Wisconsin Democrats introduce bill to legalize recreational marijuana

Professors, cannabis users weigh in on medical, economic benefits of marijuana
Brianna Davis

Wisconsin legislators introduced a bill to legalize cannabis usage and the possession of up to five ounces of marijuana for adults 21 years and older Sept. 22.

According to a press release from the Wisconsin State Legislature, Wisconsin State Sen. Melissa Agard, D-Madison, and Rep. Darrin Madison, D-Milwaukee, drafted the bill.

In the press release, Agard said both Democrat voters and a majority of Republican voters are in favor of the legalization of cannabis.


Money that could be invested in Wisconsin gets spent on cannabis products in surrounding states like Minnesota and Illinois, Agard said in the press release.

In the current proposed bill, adults who carry more than five ounces of marijuana would no longer face a felony and the penalty for minors found in possession of marijuana would be downgraded to a fine rather than criminal charge.

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As of September 2023, 23 U.S states have fully legalized marijuana. In addition, 23 other states, including Wisconsin, have made steps in the process, according to aggregate data from DISA.

In the past, Wisconsin lawmakers have attempted to lessen restrictions on cannabis. According to ACLU Wisconsin, previous attempts to legalize recreational marijuana have failed, most recently in the 2021-2022 legislative session.

While Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has repeatedly stated he is opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana, he voiced support in April 2023 for the use of medical marijuana to treat chronic pain, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers included the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana in recent state budgets, but the Republican-led Joint Finance Committee stopped his efforts, according to ACLU Wisconsin.

But, approval for recreational cannabis use has increased among both Republicans and Democrats, though only a slight majority of Republicans support legalization. According to a 2022 survey conducted by Marquette Law School, 51% of Wisconsin Republicans favored legalization while 81% of Wisconsin Democrats did.

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Black communities and individuals are disproportionately affected by the criminalization of cannabis use. According to a report by the ACLU, the usage of marijuana among all demographic groups is relatively the same, but Black Americans are 3.64 times more likely to face criminal penalties for possession than white Americans.

In Wisconsin, Black residents are 4.2 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in comparison a white residents, according to ACLU Wisconsin.

University of Wisconsin History of Pharmacy professor Lucas Richert said this discrepancy of policing between racial communities is not a new occurrence.

“Historically cannabis prohibition arguments and cannabis laws have never, ever been completely color-blind or entirely neutral,” Richert said. “Racialized assumptions and unequal enforcement practices have been a common fixture in cannabis regulation in the US and across the globe.”

The current proposed bill would expunge the criminal record of past possession convictions.

In the legislature’s press release, Madison said he hopes the bill will lessen racial discrepancies around the enforcement of the drug.

Wisconsin could see increased tax revenue if this bill is passed, according to the bill. In 2022, Illinois made $36.1 million in tax revenue from Wisconsin citizens buying marijuana products in Illinois, according to Wisconsin’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

“There are … benefits to mention for communities in Wisconsin,” Richert said. “Tax revenue, small business opportunities and increased safety in a regulated marketplace are all possible benefits.”

Marijuana has also been found to be an effective treatment for some chronic pain disorders, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine.

For John, a small-town Wisconsin resident with Parkinson’s disease who requested to only be identified by first name due to fear of job loss, the use of marijuana has been able to help alleviate tremors and aid in falling asleep.

“At times, I have a hard time sleeping, which is a symptom of Parkinson’s, so it relaxes me and helps me get a good night’s sleep, or if I’m busy, just going on in life, it [marijuana products] will take the edge off,” John said.

Cannabis products have been shown to provide relief for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, epilepsy and more, according to the study.

John said marijuana can be a cost-effective alternative to many over the counter pain medications that are currently available.

“I think for medical purposes it’s obviously helpful,” John said. “I look at what these drugs cost for prescriptions that you get from the doctors and it’s outrageous … this can be beneficial and save money.”

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