Wisconsin’s House Majority Leader said Monday that it’s likely the state will eventually legalize marijuana, but the Legislature is trying to figure out the right way to handle it.
Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said with more states across the country moving to legalize marijuana, Wisconsin may follow their lead “at some point.”
“I think recreational marijuana has a much tougher road to get through the legislature and eventually get into law, but I think we’re headed in that direction,” Steineke said during a Monday appearance on “The Morning Show.” from Wisconsin Public Radio. .”
In the latest Marquette University Law School poll, 61% of Wisconsin voters polled were in favor of outright marijuana legalization. Thirty-one percent said they want it to remain illegal.
Steineke said that while he has always supported the medical use of marijuana, the challenge for the legislature is “to try to write language tight enough to limit it to medical purposes.”
“I think that’s the biggest concern of lawmakers and law enforcement in general, that a medical marijuana bill doesn’t become a de facto marijuana bill for recreational purposes,” Steineke said.
Multiple attempts to legalize medical and recreational marijuana in Wisconsin have stalled. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, argued that states should not legalize medical marijuana until the federal government does. Meanwhile, neighboring states of Michigan and Illinois have decriminalized and legalized marijuana.
Steineke also said it was impossible to decertify the 2020 election.
“A large majority of our members understand what happened in the 2020 election,” Steineke said.
Last week, the state’s Republican-hired special counsel led by former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman recommended lawmakers consider decertifying the election.
Steineke said he disagreed with this part of the report. Nonpartisan lawyers for the state legislature also said it would be impossible to invalidate the election.
“Even if it were possible – which it isn’t – I think it’s dangerous to put politicians in charge of deciding elections,” Steineke said. “There is no one more interested in elections than politicians.”
Some Republicans have also called for abolishing the Wisconsin Elections Commission, but Steineke said putting a partisan person in charge of determining the validity of an election would be a bad idea.
He said the time should instead be spent making other changes to how the election is run. He pointed to a review by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Office that recommended changes to state election policies. This review found no evidence of widespread fraud in Wisconsin in 2020, but did flag some instances where the Election Commission failed to follow state laws.
“I don’t believe any of these issues would have resulted in different election results,” Steineke said. “But the perception in many cases is the reality for people, and without that trust that the law is being followed, that leads to some of these questions that people have about election results.”
Critics of some reforms Republicans are pushing say the changes, like having to request mail-in ballots for each election individually, would lead to more hurdles in the voting process. Steineke pushed back against this characterization.
“It’s not about making it harder to vote,” Steineke said. “It’s about making sure people obey the law when they vote.”
Gov. Tony Evers will likely veto most election proposals that come into his office. He has said in the past that the system in place is working.