The Legalization of Marijuana in Wisconsin: Opinion

Malik Boyd, Editor

SB545 is a senate bill currently being pushed in the Wisconsin state senate that aims to legalize marijuana. The bill is a great step towards total drug legalization in Wisconsin. If put into law, it would legalize the possession of marijuana by anyone 21 or older, and allow anyone 18 or older to possess marijuana if prescribed by a physician. The bill would also eliminate “the prohibition on possessing or using drug paraphernalia that relates to marijuana consumption.”

Drug legalization has been a sweeping success throughout the United States and the world. It should not be the government’s job to decide whatever someone puts in their body, especially if the substance they ingest is legal. The legalization of marijuana in Wisconsin wouldn’t just grant Wisconsinites new freedoms; this new economic sector would be a massive revenue stream for the State Government, and could generate an estimated $165 million dollars yearly, according to Tony Evers and Politifact.

Sadly, it is likely that Republican senators will attempt to block the bill despite the fact that more that 59% of Wisconsin voters support the legalization of recreational marijuana according to a Marquette Law School poll conducted in 2019. Republican senate majority leader, Devin LeMahieu, already committed to stopping the legalization of medical or recreational marijuana until its FDA approval, stating during a virtual Q&A that “discussion needs to be done at the federal level and not have some rogue state doing it”. Republicans control the state senate 21-12, so it is unlikely that SB545 could pass even with a few Republican senators in support.

The bill does have several shortcomings though, and does not reach as far as it should for marijuana legalization. Under the bill, citizens would only be permitted to possess no more than 2 ounces of Marijuana. If violated, you could receive up to a $1000 fine and/or 90 days in jail. There is no evidence that keeping an arbitrary limit on marijuana possession will regulate drug safety, and is yet another blatant exercise of government control. No one should spend time in jail or have their property forfeited because they owned a legal substance.

Although the bill would create “a process by which a person may obtain a permit to produce, process, or sell marijuana for recreational use”, it would prohibit the operation of Marijuana dispensaries within 500 feet of a recreation facility, public park, public transit facility, or library. While 500 feet is merely a city block and is significantly more progressive than other state’s legislation, it still is just another arbitrary limit on the sale of private property. What harm does it do for a dispensary to merely be seen by people in a public space?

Despite the bill’s shortcomings, it is still a necessary new step towards ending the disastrous war on drugs in Wisconsin and granting Wisconsinites freedoms they deserve.

Read the bill here:

2021 Senate Bill 545