In a a press release this morning, Governor Evers announced that he would like to legalize marijuana in Wisconsin and funnel a portion of the expected $165 million annual tax revenues into a Community Reinvestment Fund.
This will obviously be a tough sell with republicans in the legislature, so democrats and legalization advocates should expand their public education strategy to include more than just citing the expected tax revenues.
Evers gives passing mention to reducing criminal justice costs, but this should be studied in greater detail. Every pot bust takes up the time of a variety of public employees including a law enforcement officer, a jailer, a judge, a public defender, a prosecutor, a probation and parole agent, an alcohol and drug counselor, as well as ancillary costs related to ongoing community supervision such as drug tests. Depending on how a case unfolds these costs can accumulate rapidly.
The Shepherd Express reported roughly 16000 marijuana arrests in 2019. For the sake of discussion, let’s say each marijuana bust, on average, costs taxpayers $2,000 in personnel and infrastructure expenditures. That’s $32 million in annual budget savings. $32 million that could be spent on schools. $32 million that could be used to boost the Senior Care program.
If I were in the legislature I’d get the Legislative Fiscal Bureau on this immediately as a boost to Evers proposal. Republicans are always claiming to be about fiscal responsibility. If we can make money and save money with marijuana legalization there’s no good reason not to do it.