Wisconsin Republicans Defeat Cannabis Legalization Amendment in Senate

The Wisconsin Senate rejected a pair of amendments to a budget bill that would have legalized recreational cannabis in the midwest state.

by Rowan Nathan · June 29, 2023

The Wisconsin Senate rejected a pair of amendments to a budget bill that would have legalized recreational cannabis in the midwest state.

Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard (D) gave the full chamber a chance to enact the reform, with one inclusive amendment that would have restored several administrative priorities in order to facilitate cannabis legalization. Last month GOP senators stripped cannabis provisions from the governor’s budget in committee.

The standalone amendment floated n the floor by the Demacratic leader failed 22-11 on Wednesday. The vote went entirely along party lines, with all Democrats supporting while every Republican voted Ney, although no Republicans spoke against the amendment on the floor.

The final result in the Republican-controlled legislature was expected, however it represents the first time Wisconsin voters will be able to get a clear view of where all elected senators stand on pot before the next election.

Senator Agard took to Twitter following the vote:

"Republicans just rejected #cannabis legalization in our state budget. Legalization will generate significant revenue in our state and our communities. While Republicans like to say they are the party of “fiscal responsibility,” rejecting this amendment is fiscally irresponsible. pic.twitter.com/fMaZkaoY0v

— Senator Melissa Agard 🌻 (@SenatorAgard) June 28, 2023

During last year’s election, voters in three counties and five municipalities approved referendums supporting cannabis legalization. The governor has also backed initiatives that have consistently stalled under Republican leadership in Madison.

Separately, the Republican speaker of the Assembly said this month that his caucus plans to introduce a medical marijuana bill as early as this summer. But he emphasized that it will be unlike any existing medical cannabis law in the country, strongly signaling that it will be significantly restrictive.

At Senator Agard's request, the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau carried out a study that was released back in March showing Wisconsin residents purchased over $121 million worth of legal weed from licensed retailers in neighboring Illinois in 2022. The non-partisan LFB found those purchases led to roughly $36 million in tax revenue to just that state. A separate report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum (WPM) a month earlier found that over half of all adults 21 and older in the state live within 75 minutes of a cannabis retailer in a legal neighboring state. Democrats in Madison are using the data to show voters how Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota (which goes legal next year) are currently set to each Wisconsin's weed lunch and take much needed tax dollars from the State known for its cheese.

Agard is also quick to point to the 69% of Wisconsin voters who favor legalization. Inferring It's a matter of "when", not "if"- “Prohibition continues to be very harmful to our state. It creates less safety. We are infringing on people’s personal liberties and freedoms—because cannabis consumption is not harmful to the greater community when regulated appropriately—and we’re missing out on a lot of prosperity [and] opportunity, for our main streets and our communities to be able to get ahead. So this is the policy that absolutely does belong in our state budget.”

We'll be tuning in for more beer, brats, and party politics in Wisconsin. No weed yet.