MADISON, Wis. — As lawmakers get ready to return to the floor in January, marijuana, especially medicinal use, could be one of areas where Democrats and Republicans find compromise.
Spectrum News 1 Political Reporter Anthony DaBruzzi discussed the issue with Democratic Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard as Gov. Evers plans to make cannabis a part of his budget pitch early next year.
You can watch the conversation above.
State Sen. Agard, who has been a longtime champion of cannabis legalization, said she will continue her push in the upcoming biennium. Though some Republican lawmakers have expressed an openness to medicinal use, and even previously authored legislation, Agard doesn't believe it reflects what Wisconsinites want.
“The devil is in the details and at this point. The bills that have been brought forward by my Republican colleagues are not ones that the appetite of the people of Wisconsin would really support if they drill down into what it is that those policies are saying,” Agard explained. “It is clear that the governor agrees with me, that the most dangerous thing about cannabis in Wisconsin is that it remains illegal. And we are going to roll up our sleeves and do everything that we can to move this bill across the finish line.”
While Gov. Evers has tried to make cannabis a fiscal issue by including marijuana legalization for tax revenue purposes in his budget proposals, there are a lot of issues Democrats hope to focus on that are not tied to money.
Among the biggest is access to abortion rights, according to Agard.
“We know that medical freedoms and reproductive access, abortion access, in the state of Wisconsin is on the line, and that has ignited so many people not only in Wisconsin, but across our nation to become involved in government,” Agard explained. "As Democrats, we are going to continue to ensure that people in Wisconsin are having more access to reproductive freedoms. Right now, we are handicapped by a law that is on the books from the 1800s when women were not elected, and when men rode horses, when people were still owned for their labor in our nation. Those are not the values of our community anymore, and we know that abortion rights are on the line and as Democrats are going to continue moving forward to make sure that we are doing everything that we can there, and I'm so grateful for Gov. Evers leadership in that capacity.”
For Agard, environmental issues rank in a close second for her and the caucus she leads.
“I also know that we need to do more to protect the air and water in our state,” Agard said. “Our environment is something that defines us as Wisconsinites. People travel the world to come to Wisconsin to be able to spend time. Whether they are going to Wisconsin Dells to enjoy our waterslides and waterparks or they are coming here to do some hunting and fishing. We know that everyone desires the ability to breathe clean air and to be able to drink clean water as well as that intersection with our economy and our tourism, and as Democrats we are going to continue to advocate for that as well.”
As Democrats and Republicans search for compromise, sometimes the easiest place to start is where lawmakers left off. Agard is optimistic public safety could be one of those areas.
“We all know that we want to be safe in our communities, and I look forward to being able to talk with my colleagues more about mental health support,” Agard said. “More about addressing addiction and the opioid crisis. There are too many tables right now in the state of Wisconsin that have empty chairs at them, and that is not okay. So despite the fact that I know that there is more that we can do, and that we didn't do as much as we could over the next session, as Democrats and Republicans investing in mental health and addiction, investing in our local governments, primarily our counties who provide those supports, I'm hopeful that we can do some good work there.”