Support for Marijuana Legalization Growing in Wisconsin, Polls Show

Results of a new poll suggest Wisconsin voters are changing their attitudes toward marijuana legalization.

A pair of polls, done two years apart, shows that Wisconsin voters are beginning to support marijuana legalization.

In the initial poll, done in 2014, the Marquette Law School asked registered voters in Wisconsin the question, “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal or not?” Fifty-one percent of voters responded they were not in favor, compared to 46 percent who said they were in favor.

This July, however, the Marquette Law School asked again, and the response was significantly different. When asked whether they agree or disagree with the statement, “When it comes to marijuana, some people think that the drug should be fully legalized and regulated like alcohol,” just 39 percent of voters said they were opposed, compared to 59 percent who responded that they agreed with legalization.

“I think people in Wisconsin are very aware of what is happening around the country,” said Gary Storck of Madison NORML.

The shift toward marijuana acceptance in Wisconsin mirrors that of the nation. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that more than half of American registered voters support the legalization of adult use marijuana.

The current marijuana laws in Wisconsin are among the strictest in the country. Possession of less than an ounce is susceptible to up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The recent Marquette poll found that 81 percent of respondents felt that the argument to legalize marijuana because “we spend too many government resources on arresting and incarcerating marijuana offenders; it would be better to spend those resources on other things” was at least “somewhat convincing”

Seventy-two percent of respondents felt that “if marijuana were legalized, then it could be taxed, which could help to support important government services like education” was at least a “somewhat convincing” argument for legalization.

Earlier this year, Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) introduced legislation that would legalize and regulate the production and sale of marijuana to adults aged 21 and older and establish a medical marijuana program. However, the legislation didn’t make it through the committee process.

“Well this is an election year so I think that it puts the onus on candidates to defend their position if they oppose legalization,” added Storck. “I mean we’ve reached 59 percent. As far as I know this is the high water level for legalization in Wisconsin.”

If Wisconsin legislators had acted on Sargent’s bill, the state would generate nearly $68 million in revenue, $5.3 million in sales tax, and another $440,000 in fees, according to estimates from state analysts.

“Wisconsin is missing out on lots of jobs, business opportunities and tax dollars by not legalizing medical or recreational marijuana,” Chris Walsh, the managing editor of the Colorado-based Marijuana Business Daily, told Madison news outlet Isthmus earlier this year. “The industry is at a tipping point right now, but we can clearly see the direction things are going.”

While marijuana continues to be illegal federally, four states (AlaskaColoradoOregonWashington) and Washington D.C. have legalized adult use marijuana. California and Massachusetts will be voting on recreational legalization this coming November.

The latest Marquette survey was conducted by cellphones and landlines from July 7 to 10 and included 801 registered voters.