By LaKeshia N. Myers
If ever there was a state that was ‘tardy for the party’, it would be Wisconsin. Wisconsin is an island unto itself, surrounded by Michigan, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota—states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. States that have generated over $1 billion in taxable revenue; states that understand marijuana to be one of the best ‘green jobs’ of the future.
In Michigan, more than $42 million tax dollars from the recreational marijuana industry are expected to be doled out to 163 counties, cities, villages and townships, according to the Michigan state Treasurer’s Office. “This means each eligible municipality and county will receive more than $56,400 for every licensed retail store and microbusiness located within its jurisdiction.” Aside from the more than $42.2 million in disbursements to municipalities and counties, $49.3 million was sent to the Michigan School Aid Fund for K-12 education and another $49.3 million to the Michigan Transportation Fund.
Since legalizing medicinal marijuana in 2015, Illinois sales reached nearly $1.38 billion, more than doubling the total from 2020, the first year of legal recreational marijuana sales in the state. Legal cannabis sales are projected to surpass $30 billion this year and reach $45.8 billion by 2025. Illinois is projected to generate $2.55 billion in annual cannabis sales by 2025, according to cannabis research firm, Headset.
Why must Wisconsin always be on the ‘late show?’ Your guess is as good as mine. I understand some have reservations about legalizing recreational marijuana use, but there is enough substantial research to show that cannabis and its byproducts (hemp, cannabis oils, etc.) provide positive contributions to medical science and that its long-term effects are not nearly as harmful as once believed. Wisconsin lawmakers are icing us out of a billion-dollar industry, based solely in agriculture. With cannabis and hemp, the possibilities are endless. We could be a generator of highly skilled, income generating, green jobs. But instead, the GOP-controlled legislature allows us to be a ‘bump on a log’ being left farther and farther behind.
Legalizing cannabis could help us fully fund schools, provide for lost transportation costs and fund an intra-state railway system. All things we desperately need to spur growth in the 21st century. I hope as we prepare for the next legislative session, serious thought is given to legalizing marijuana—at least for medicinal purposes. We are leaving far too much revenue on the table.