A proposal to legalize marijuana in the state of Wisconsin is gaining traction as Governor Tony Evers lays out his plan to both tax and regulate the usage of the drug.
"I think this is something that's been a long time coming," said Representative Lakeshia Myers.
"The governor's proposal to fully legalize marijuana is bringing Wisconsin I would say to the 21st-century," said Andrew Hysell, a representative with the Wisconsin Cannabis Association.
In his 2021-23 budget, Evers proposes to regulate and tax marijuana much like Wisconsin does for alcohol. He says legalizing the drug could generate more than $165 million dollars annually which could have a huge economic impact on the state.
"Because of COVID we have a lot of issues around public funding for things that people need like roads, bridges, schools. This is a way to tap into some extra dollars to support through a legal industry," said Hysell.
While the plan has gained some support, Adam Neylon, a Republican state lawmaker says he's against legalizing marijuana for recreational use. He adds the proposal to tax the drug is also concerning.
"In Wisconsin, we have over a $1 billion tax surplus. And I think the discussion should be on how we should be cutting taxes not increasing them. If he's already decided to spend above that billion and needs additional revenue to meet some of these priorities then I think we're in for a really difficult budget negotiation," said Neylon.
In the proposal, Evers also said that he'd use the money generated from legalizing marijuana to invest in rural schools and communities across the state.
"You can't have equity and do this without retroactively releasing individuals who have gone to prison which have been overwhelming African American and Hispanic people Without going back and righting that wrong as well," said Myers.
The governor added that the budget proposal will increase revenue, create jobs, and reduce criminal justice system costs. If passed, individuals would need to be 21 years of age to purchase marijuana for recreational use.