Wisconsin Republicans block medical marijuana – again

Republicans who control the Legislature’s powerful budget-writing committee again blocked a Democratic attempt Wednesday to legalize marijuana for medical use.

The GOP stripped a provision legalizing medical marijuana from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ 2021-23 budget last month as the party erased hundreds of his proposals from the spending plan.

Democrats on the budget committee introduced a motion Wednesday that would legalize it and provide the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection with roughly $185,000 per year to regulate the drug.

Rep. Evan Goyke, a Milwaukee Democrat, said the “sky has not fallen” in other states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

“Stop running from this debate,” Goyke said.

Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Howard Marklein, a Spring Green Republican, ruled the motion was out of order since the committee had already removed the provision from the budget.

In other actions Wednesday, Republicans on the committee:

— Wiped out the governor’s plan to create $20 million in grants for food pantries and food banks;

— Approved spending $319,200 on body cameras for DNR wardens and data storage. The state Department of Administration estimates an individual camera costs about $1,000; the committee’s action would provide enough money to buy 145 cameras. Evers’ budget called for spending $406,000 to buy 290 cameras for wardens and cover data storage; and

— Raised the cost of a duck hunting stamp from $7 to $12 as Evers had proposed. The move comes as a national decline in duck hunting has led to reduced revenue for waterfowl conservation projects.

Rep. Mark Born, the committee’s other co-chairman, told reporters that he expects the committee will finish its budget revisions in the next few weeks and the Legislature will take floor votes on passage by the end of June.

State law requires the new budget to be in place by the start of the next fiscal year on July 1, but that’s largely a symbolic target. Funding for state agencies and programs will continue at current levels until Evers signs a new budget.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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