The governor of Wisconsin is considering including measures to legalize adult-use cannabis in his 2021 budget proposal as a way to generate sorely-needed state tax revenues amid an economic downturn precipitated by the coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Tony Evers said marijuana legalization was an option for Wisconsin, even though more modest reform measures have been rejected by the Republican-led legislature in recent times. Last year, Evers tried to decriminalize marijuana possession and legalize medical cannabis through his budget proposal but these measures were removed by congressional leadership.

Later that year, Wisconsin Democrats attempted to pass a medical marijuana bill through the legislature for the tenth consecutive session but it once again faced stiff opposition in the Senate. Another bill to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession of up to 28 grams also failed to make it through.

At the same time, Wisconsin voters have indicated they want the chance to have their say on marijuana legalization. At the 2018 election, solid majorities making up almost half the state’s population approved nonbinding ballot questions to legalize medical and recreational cannabis. A few months later, voters in three jurisdictions approved nonbinding marijuana reform advisory questions in the state elections.

Evers called lawmakers out for their inaction on marijuana reform last year during his State of the State address.

“When more than 80 percent of our state supports medical marijuana…and elected officials can ignore those numbers without consequence, folks, something’s wrong,” the governor said at the time.

Gov. Evers isn’t the only governor considering a renewed push to legalize cannabis in 2021. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has attempted to pass the measure through his annual state budget and intends to do so again next year. So far, his efforts have stalled owing to disputes over regulatory control and the allocation of tax revenues, while more recently the Covid-19 pandemic derailed talks on the issue. Nearby Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is also taking another bite at approving marijuana legalization through her budget proposal in 2021. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam likewise wants to start the process of legalizing marijuana via the budget process. He said he wants Virginia to lead the way on cannabis legalization in the South.

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