Governor Tony Evers put forward a plan today that would decriminalize marijuana. This comes after years of failed attempts at similar legislation — but this time, they have support from the governor.
Many legalization and decriminalization proponents are celebrating Evers’ announcement today, but it still faces likely roadblocks in the Republican-controlled legislature.
Evers says he’ll include the marijuana decriminalization plan in his budget proposal. That plan would make possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana no longer a crime.
His plan would also legalize medical marijuana and would expand access to CBD oil. Evers says in addition to being a healthcare issue, he’s also pushing this plan to improve the criminal justice system.
“Wisconsinites overwhelmingly agree that access to medical marijuana, CBD oil and decriminalization for small amounts of marijuana are critically important issues,” Evers says. “And I believe we can get this done in the budget.”
A Marquette University Law school poll found that nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin voters support marijuana legalization.
The plan would also create a path to expungement for people who have completed their sentences for low level drug offenses.
Representative David Crowley is a Democrat from Milwaukee and chair of the Legislature’s black caucus. He sees this as a good first step at easing disparities in the state’s criminal justice system.
“African Americans make up only six percent of the population in our state. However, we make up almost 40 percent of our prison population,” Crowley says. “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.”
Iraq War veteran Steve Acheson uses cannabis to treat symptoms of injuries he sustained during the war, as well as PTSD. He says legalizing medical marijuana will provide an alternative to addictive prescription painkillers.
“There’s way too many of our fellow veterans dying from overprescription and suicide,” Acheson says. “We need an alternative and we need an off-ramp.
The plan has already received push-back from some Republicans in the Legislature. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a statement that although he’s open to legalizing medical marijuana, this plan “appears to go too far.”
Evers said today he’s pushing for decriminalization rather than full legalization because it’s more likely to get bipartisan support.
“We’re starting with places that we can win,” Evers says. “I believe there are Republicans out there that believe this is important, not only around medical marijuana but decriminalizing small amounts,” Evers says.
Evers is set to release his full budget proposal later this month.