Updated at 4:32 p.m.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday that his budget will include legalizing medical marijuana, along with decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Evers says possession, manufacturing or distribution of marijuana in amounts of 25 grams or less should be decriminalized.
If the Republican-controlled Legislature approves, Wisconsin would join 30 other states and the District of Columbia in adopting legalization of marijuana laws.
Flanked by supporters, Evers unveiled his plans at the State Capitol. He says it’s about time that Wisconsin join more than 30 other states, plus the District of Columbia, in legalizing medical marijuana.
He says he has a personal stake in the issue.
“As a cancer survivor, I know the side effects of a major illness can make everyday tasks a struggle. For many Wisconsinites, medical marijuana and products like CBD oil, can help alleviate chronic pains, reduce symptoms like anxiety and help people cope with things like PTSD,” Evers said.
Evers says people shouldn’t feel like criminals for accessing medicine that can change, or even save, their lives.
State Rep. David Crowley (D-Milwaukee) says he’s pleased with the development. He called decriminalization a “first step in the right direction.”
“African-Americans make up about 6 percent of the population in our state. However, we make up almost 40 percent of our prison population. That is unjust. Many if not most of these crimes these young black men are getting locked up for are for low-level drug offenses. There’s clear evidence that says that harsh drug laws do not do much to deter marijuana use. All it succeeds in doing is disproportionately locking up Wisconsinites of color,” Crowley says.
Evers’ proposal would also establish an expungement procedure for people convicted of possessing, manufacturing or distributing less than 26 grams of marijuana and have completed their sentences.
Republicans who control the legislature would have to approve the budget items. State Rep. Rick Gundrum (R-Slinger) says he’ll vote against the measure.
“Unless it’s proven otherwise, I think it opens up the door to legalize it for recreational marijuana and I am definitely opposed to that,” Gundrum says.
This isn’t a Republican issue or a Democratic issue. Wisconsinites overwhelmingly agree that access to medical marijuana, CBD oil, and decriminalization for small amounts of marijuana are critically important issues, and I believe we can get it done in this budget.
— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) February 18, 2019
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos had earlier indicated support for medical marijuana. But in a statement Monday, he said the proposal Evers unveiled appears to go too far.
Vos says decriminalization would make it easier to obtain recreational marijuana and fears it would provide a pathway to full legalization, which he does not support.