Rid the state of marijuana crime

Wisconsin is now an island surrounded by a sea of grass.

Our state achieved that dubious distinction on May 30 when Minnesota approved the sale and use of recreational marijuana.

Marijuana (AKA grass, pot, weed, ganja, cannabis and a plethora of other names for the most commonly used illicit drug in America) can now be legally purchased in every state that borders Wisconsin—Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois (all recreational and medical) and even politically and religiously straight-laced Iowa (medical only).

This encirclement has financial ramifications. The surrounding states are harvesting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes collected on marijuana sales, including a significant share of this revenue produced by Wisconsin residents on cross-border marijuana shopping trips.

An analysis by Wisconsin’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that Wisconsin residents spent $123 million buying marijuana in Illinois in 2022, including $36 million in taxes. In that year, Illinois collected a total of $462 million in marijuana taxes, according to the Fiscal Bureau—a sign that Wisconsin is forgoing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in tax revenue by continuing to criminalize marijuana.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has proposed the legalization of marijuana three times, and has been thwarted each time by the Legislature’s Republican majority.

This is in line with the legislative majority’s strategy to block the governor’s agenda at every turn, often claiming the justification of limiting spending, but in this case it is costing the state lost revenue.

Tax money is not the only factor that has encouraged 38 states to legalize marijuana for recreational or medical use or both. Another is public demand. Numerous surveys have confirmed that a majority of Americans want marijuana to be legal. In Wisconsin, a Marquette University Law School poll found that 64% want marijuana legal for recreational use and 80% want legal medical marijuana.

Marijuana, though a natural substance, is classified as a drug, and as such should be regulated. It is against the law to sell or possess it in Wisconsin, yet tons of it are sold and used here every year. Buyers have no way of knowing what impurities or even dangerous substances are among the crumbled parts of the cannabis plants they are smoking or consuming

Legalization gives states the means to ensure that the product it is free of toxins and is sold is sold at reputable, licensed outlets. States with legal marijuana treat it like tobacco and alcohol, limiting sales to buyers who are 21 or older.

Though it has the same age restriction, marijuana is less dangerous to health than alcohol and tobacco. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 88,000 people in the U.S. die each year from excessive alcohol use. There are no recorded deaths from marijuana overdose, according to the CDC.

Legal marijuana is big business, a benefit not only to taxing authorities, but also to state economies. In 2021, the marijuana industry in the U.S. recorded sales of $24.6 billion.

In states where it is still illegal, rather than bringing in taxes and corporate revenue, marijuana costs taxpayers money in law enforcement, judicial and incarceration expenses.

The medical value of marijuana has been thoroughly studied, and found to be effective in pain management (and, unlike prescribed opiates, is not subject to overdose), among other medical uses. How unfortunate is it that people in Wisconsin whose health could benefit from marijuana have to travel to another state or buy it on the street in their home state.

Perhaps having gotten wind of the fact that as many as 80% of voters want them to act, majority leaders in the Wisconsin Legislature are talking about the possibility of actually introducing a bill to approve the medical use of marijuana.

Passing such a bill would be progress, but only halfway toward the sensible goal of totally decriminalizing a product that is more benign than the product of the brewing industry for which Wisconsin is famous.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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