Republicans aren’t serious about marijuana reform. A State Supreme Court case might change that.

Speaker Vos continues to drag feet on marijuana laws, but redistricting might change future of marijuana in Wisconsin

· Feb 6, 2024 Tweet

Knuckleheads Wellness
Paige Valley/The Badger Herald

Thirty-eight states have legalized marijuana for medical use while 24 have legalized it recreationally, including some of Wisconsin’s neighbors, according to AP News. Consequently, there has been a push for Wisconsin to follow suit. Many Wisconsinites are aiming for this measure as well. About 64% of voters want marijuana legalized in the state, according to Wisconsin Watch.

This popular consensus has not penetrated Republican circles in state government. They remain divided on a bill aimed at legalizing medical marijuana, according to AP News — even though the bill is considered to be highly restrictive.

The proposed bill limits the legalization to people with illnesses including cancer, HIV, AIDS and others, according to AP News. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is at the frontline trying to make this law as restrictive as it can be, despite the public desire for full legalization of it recreationally.

He does not plan to compromise with fellow Republicans, either, who oppose his program. In a statement to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Vos framed less restrictive revisions of the bill as unlikely to ever gain enough support to become law.

The bill needs to make its way through many different approval channels before coming into effect, but Gov. Tony Evers did voice his support for the proposal — unsurprising given his prior history of supporting efforts to legalize medical marijuana. This support does not extend to more progressive renditions of marijuana legislation, but, he said he would back the Republicans’ more restrictive bill.

Evers would prefer a more comprehensive legalization due to the desires of Wisconsinites but understands the proposed restrictive bill may be all that can pass right now given Republican dominance over both chambers of the state Legislature according to Wisconsin Watch.

This type of compromise is unique to Evers as Vos has repeatedly stated how he will not compromise on loosening up the restrictiveness of the bill — a blatant disregard of public opinion.

There is a nationwide trend spreading that accepts the legalization of marijuana as many believe legalizing marijuana can reduce crime, thereby reducing the excess strain on the justice system, according to Boise State University.

Additionally, legalization of marijuana affects public health. By legalizing cannabis, you are taking it off the illegal market and placing it into markets that have structured processes with rules and regulations, such as those of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Product oversight and quality control of legal marijuana ensures consumers safety and well-being. When you purchase it illegally, you run the risk of using marijuana that may be potentially harmful, according to the American Addiction Centers.

Marijuana legalization also stimulates the economy. Cannabis sales generate significant tax revenue when legalized. Then this money can be used to bolster state infrastructure and services. For example, Colorado used $7.3 million from cannabis revenue to provide services and housing to those experiencing homelessness, according to Excelsior University.

Naturally, jobs will also be created as a new industry emerges. Jobs in the rapidly growing industry are expected to skyrocket by 250% across the span of the next 10 years, which is more than any other field, according to Excelsior University.

The disregard toward these benefits on the part of Wisconsin Republicans may not only be related to the legalization bill itself. The current redistricting case that reached the Wisconsin Supreme Court addresses the state’s gerrymandered voting maps that heavily favor Republicans, according to WPR.

The clock is ticking on a Republican-commanding majority in state government. But for now, Republicans have all the power to choke progressive marijuana reform and legislation.

The result of the redistricting case will transform the current power dynamics within the state. It may upset the historical precedent shaped by conservatives for the past decades.

In a less gerrymandered political environment, Republicans will have to campaign to win elections, and this means catering to public opinions. Since legislature members need to run for reelection, they are going to need to adopt popular platforms in line with the beliefs of their constituents — many of whom support more progressive marijuana legislation. If Republicans continue dragging their feet on marijuana reforms and districts are redrawn, they risk losing support within their new constituencies.

Most Democrats in the U.S. back legalizing marijuana in some form, according to 2022 data from Pew Research. Given Republican refusal to move the ball on any significant marijuana legislation, Democratic candidates stand to gain ground with voters in a post-redistricting landscape.

Realistically, it seems as if the bill backed by Vos will be what pushes through due to the current political circumstances. But, in combination with the redistricting case currently being debated, the legalization isn’t necessarily set in stone. The future is uncertain, but if the patterns of a large portion of the U.S. are any sign, there is a future for the legalization of recreational marijuana in Wisconsin.

Sammie Garrity ([email protected]) is a freshman studying journalism and political science.

Tweet

This article was published Feb 6, 2024 at 7:00 pm and last updated Feb 4, 2024 at 8:41 am

Comments

UW-Madison's Premier Independent Student Newspaper

All Content © The Badger Herald, 1995 - 2024