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Despite popularity, Senate GOP leader says no support for legal marijuana


MADISON (WKOW) -- The top Republican in the state Senate said Thursday there are not enough votes in his body to pass the legalization of marijuana, either for recreational or medicinal purposes.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) said Thursday during a virtual luncheon with there was not enough support among Senate Republicans to approve any marijuana legalization proposals.

"I think there's some societal concerns you have to consider with that. First of all, we don't have support from the caucus, that's pretty clear," LeMahieu said. "We don't have 17 votes in the caucus for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes legalize it."

Democratic Governor Tony Evers has proposed legalizing recreational marijuana as part of is 2021-22 state budget. Evers include the same proposal in his first budget two years but the Republican-led legislature took it out of the final version.

An April 2019 Marquette Law School poll found 59 percent of voters supported legalizing recreational weed. 83 percent of the poll's respondents said they supported legalizing the drug for medical purposes with a doctor's prescription.

Evers made marijuana legalization a subject of his radio address this week.

"We’re also proposing legalizing marijuana and regulating and taxing it—much like we do with alcohol," Evers said in the address. "And modifying criminal penalties for marijuana-related crimes to align with legalization and create a process for individuals serving sentences or previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes to have the opportunity to repeal or reduce their sentences for nonviolent minor offenses."

LeMahieu said he had reservations about legalization encouraging use and how it could affect employers in his Northeast Wisconsin district.

"My district is heavily manufacturing; they're concerned it might have, in their workplaces, causing problems with people who are high on the job if it's more accessible," LeMahieu said.

It's not the first time Senate Republican leaders have snuffed the idea of legalizing marijuana. Earlier this year, Senate President Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) wrote an op-ed outlining his opposition.

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