Democratic lawmaker introduces bill to legalize marijuana

A Democratic lawmaker for the fourth time introduced legislation that would legalize marijuana for both recreational and medicinal use, going further than the plan put forward by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, said she has the momentum to move her marijuana legislation forward despite an almost certain roadblock in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

“The power of the people is the will of the land,” Sargent said. “I’m not afraid of the mountain that we have to climb here.”

Sargent, flanked by cannabis advocates in the state Capitol on Thursday, said public support for legalization of the drug is the highest it’s ever been in the state.

The latest Marquette Law School Poll, released April 10, shows 59% of Wisconsinites believe marijuana use should be legal, while 83% say it should be legal for medical purposes with a doctor’s prescription.

Beyond popular support for her proposal, Sargent and advocates said legalization of the drug would provide economic, medicinal and civil rights benefits.

Her plan would legalize both medicinal and recreational use of cannabis, following the path of 10 other states that have done so.

Sargent’s plan differs from that of Evers’, who in his budget put forth a proposal that would enable people to legally access the drug with a physician’s recommendation to treat any of a list of “debilitating medical conditions” including cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.

Other parts of the governor’s plan call for removing all penalties for the possession, manufacture or distribution of 25 grams or less of marijuana, and allowing people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana to have their records expunged.

Republicans have largely expressed disapproval of anything beyond medical marijuana. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who has been open to legalizing medical marijuana, splashed cold water on the governor’s plan in February, calling his proposal to decriminalize small amounts of the drug “preposterous” because, he said, it opened the door to recreational use.

Vos said the debate over marijuana does not belong in the budget debate. Evers has signaled he would be open to full legalization.


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