A new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum found that half of the state’s residents aged 21 or older (about 2.16 million people) already live within 75 minutes of an adult-use dispensary in a nearby state and another 30% live within an hour’s drive.
“As recently as November 2019, those numbers were zero. Both Michigan (2018) and Illinois (2019) have passed laws legalizing marijuana, with Michigan opening its first recreational dispensaries in December 2019 and Illinois stores debuting in January 2020. Since then, more than 100 locations in Illinois and 600 locations in Michigan have begun sales. Meanwhile, Minnesota lawmakers have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and appear poised to approve recreational use of the drug by the end of the year.” — Wisconsin Policy Forum, “Changing Midwest Marijuana Landscape Impacts Wisconsin,” February 2023
The report notes that Wisconsin lawmakers have yet to introduce any legislation this session to legalize cannabis for any purpose, and Gov. Tony Evers (D) and Democratic lawmakers have indicated they want to legalize both medical and adult-use cannabis but no movement on the reforms is possible without the support of at least some Assembly and Senate Republicans.
Cannabis possession remains a criminal act in Wisconsin except in Madison where individuals can carry up to 28 grams, the report says. Other cities, including Eau Claire, Green Bay, and Oshkosh, have all loosened restrictions on possession in recent years. In 2021, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors lowered the fine for the possession of under 25 grams of cannabis and for smoking in public both to $1. However, the report notes that law enforcement officers can still choose to enforce state cannabis laws, which carry much higher fines.
“So while marijuana is not available for legal purchase in Wisconsin, it is sold at retail locations less than a mile from the state border in East Dubuque and South Beloit, Illinois,” the report says. “Meanwhile, in some Wisconsin localities it is legal to possess and consume it – but it is still illegal to do so under state and federal law. This combination of factors makes for a complicated legal and regulatory environment.”
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