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Report Revealing $36M In Tax Revenue Given To Illinois By Wisconsinites Sparks Renewed Demands For Marijuana Legalization

Report Revealing $36M In Tax Revenue Given To Illinois By Wisconsinites Sparks Renewed Demands For Marijuana Legalization

According to a memo from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, people in Wisconsin paid more than $36.1 million in taxes on marijuana sales in Illinois.

State Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Madison), a longtime supporter of legalizing marijuana, released a copy of the report on Thursday. This is because Wisconsin is behind neighboring states in terms of legalizing marijuana.

Sen. Agard called Wisconsin an “island of prohibition” because it is surrounded by states that have legalized marijuana or will soon do so.

“It should bother every Wisconsinite that our hard-earned tax dollars are going across the border to Illinois,” Agard said in a statement. “This is money that could go toward Wisconsin’s public schools, transportation infrastructure, and public safety. Instead, Illinois is reaping the benefits of Republican obstructionism and its anti-legalization stance on marijuana.

37 states have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use, including neighboring states Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota. And that’s where people in Wisconsin’s money is going.

In 2022, Illinois pot shops made more than $1.5 billion. There are dispensaries in four Illinois counties that border Wisconsin. More than half of the nearly $240 million in sales came from people in other states.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau looked at cannabis tax revenue sales by Wisconsin residents by “assuming that all sales to out-of-state residents in counties bordering Wisconsin were made to Wisconsin residents, which are estimated to make up 7.8% of total Illinois cannabis-related tax revenue.”

The memo says that the estimated $36.1 million in tax revenues could be lower or higher depending on a number of factors.

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Report Revealing $36M In Tax Revenue Given To Illinois By Wisconsinites Sparks Renewed Demands For Marijuana Legalization

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“It’s possible that not all sales to people from outside of Wisconsin in counties that border the state were made to people from Wisconsin. Two of the dispensaries in this estimate, for example, are in Jo Daviess County, which is on the border of Iowa and Wisconsin. Some of the people who bought from those shops were probably from Iowa.”

Michigan and Illinois have made it legal for adults to use cannabis, and Minnesota has made a program for medical cannabis. But Wisconsin is still an island, and there are signs that GOP lawmakers may be further from a compromise on medical marijuana laws than was thought before.

Jay Selthofner, who started the Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Network, said, “I see legalizing marijuana as a jobs bill because it would create a new part of our economy.”

Selthofner said that there is a big trickle-down effect: not only would businesses benefit from legalizing marijuana, but some people are afraid to visit Wisconsin now because it is illegal. He said this is the message: “Come on vacation and leave with a warning. That’s the message right now for people who use marijuana.”

Advocates say that even just making marijuana less illegal would be a big step forward and save money for law enforcement and courts across the state.

Selthofner said, “We have science and public policy. The public backs it, and polls back it up.”

People in Wisconsin want to legalize marijuana. In October, a poll by Marquette Law showed that 64% of registered voters in Wisconsin were in favor of making marijuana legal. In 2019, a poll by Marquette University found that 83% of people support medical marijuana.

Report Revealing $36M In Tax Revenue Given To Illinois By Wisconsinites Sparks Renewed Demands For Marijuana Legalization

Selthofner said, “The public knows a lot more than the politicians do.”

So far, the top Republicans do not support it.

In a WISN interview this year, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said, “We’re not that close” on medical marijuana, even though he has been in favor of it for years.

In his state budget proposal, Gov. Tony Evers again called for marijuana to be legal for recreational use, but Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee have already said they will not accept this idea.

Sen. Agard said that those Republicans don’t understand what most people want. She said, “It doesn’t make us safer, it doesn’t help us move forward, and it’s clear that it doesn’t match the values of the people who live and work in our state.”

She said that some of her Republican colleagues privately told her they would vote for the bill if she brought it to the floor. However, she added, “They don’t want to be the first person from their party to sign the bill because they’re afraid their leaders will punish them.”

We asked for comments from both the office of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and the office of Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu. Neither one answered.


Mohit Sharma

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