Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has announced that he now supports legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes.
Attorney General Josh Kaul also said on Wednesday that he would make the case across Wisconsin for legalizing medical marijuana as an alternative to prescribing more opioids to combat pain, reports the Associated Press.
“At the end of the day do I favor legalization? Yes,” Evers said at a meeting of the Wisconsin Technology Council on Tuesday. “I want it to be done correctly so we will likely have in our budget a first step around medical marijuana.”
WisPolitics.com was the first to report on his comments.
Evers’ spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff did not immediately return a message Wednesday seeking more details.
Evers said he may call for a statewide referendum on legalization. Such referendums are advisory only in Wisconsin, but could increase pressure on reticent Republicans.
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he’s open to legalizing medical marijuana, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said he doesn’t support it.
“I still don’t believe the support’s there within the Senate caucus to move in that direction, but I know the debate is going on nationwide,” Fitzgerald said on Tuesday when asked about the issue.
Kaul, in an interview with WTMJ-TV, cast the issue as a way to combat opioid abuse.
“We are in the midst of an opioid epidemic and when people are facing pain issues — I would much rather have a doctor prescribing medical marijuana than an opioid,” Kaul told the television station.
Democratic state Rep. Melissa Sargent, who has introduced bills to full legalize marijuana, said she believed public support will put pressure on Republicans to come around.
“For too long we’ve had people at the top of the food chain who suffer from reefer madness,” Sargent said. “Frankly, it’s time for them to swallow their pride and hear the people of our state and move forward.”
There appears to be strong support among voters in Wisconsin for legalization. In the November election, voters in 16 counties supported non-binding referendums calling for legalization of medical marijuana. A Marquette University Law School poll in August found 61 percent support for full legalization, with 36 percent opposed.