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Phil Roeder

Amid a billion-dollar budget deficit, Wisconsin state Rep. Melissa Sargent is urging her colleagues to at least consider her bill to legalize cannabis use for adults, saying in a Cap Times op-ed that “It’s not just about legalizing marijuana, it’s about legalizing opportunity.”

Sargent points out that 59 percent of Wisconsinites support a taxed and regulated cannabis market, while 81 percent “believe taxpayer dollars being put to better use than being spent arresting and incarcerating marijuana-related offenders is a compelling argument for legalization.”

The Democrat laid out Colorado’s cannabis industry success – $2.4 billion in “economic impacts to the state” and 18,000 new jobs – calling it “a powerful economic engine generating more per dollar in economic output and employment than 90 percent of other industries.”

“By 2020, the marijuana industry in Colorado is expected to surpass all other industries as the state’s largest excise revenue source,” she wrote.

Instead of raising gas taxes, implementing toll roads, collecting fees for heavy trucks, or borrowing $341 million from the federal government – all suggestions by Republican lawmakers – Sargent argues that taxing and regulating cannabis could be the “economic bounty” the state needs to replenish its coffers.

“The most dangerous thing about marijuana is that it’s illegal, and the more our budget crisis worsens and we continue to see new evidence of legalization’s economic benefits, the more unjustifiable — and even foolish — it becomes to put off legalizing marijuana in Wisconsin,” she opined.

This is Sargent’s third attempt to sway her fellow lawmakers since introducing the legislation four years ago.

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