On Wednesday, February 20, 2019, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos appeared on the Jay Weber Show on NewsTalk 1130 WISN radio.
Below is the transcript of Speaker Vos’ remarks regarding Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal to include medical cannabis legalization and statewide decriminalization of up to 25 grams of cannabis in his budget:
Jay Weber: Well the attention-grabbing story coming out of Madison this week is Gov. Evers calling to legalize marijuana in Wisconsin and he outlined what he called a first step toward legalization that he plans to insert into his budget. It calls for legalizing medical marijuana and allowing for people to grow up to 12 plants at home as well as buy from dispensaries as long as they have a card that claims they’re sick. It also removes all penalties for the possession, manufacture or distribution of pot so long as it’s 25 grams or less. That’s about 25 joints or a sandwich bag full of unprocessed weed. It’s about that amount. Joining me to talk about it is Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Good morning sir, how you doing?
Robin Vos: I’m good Jay good morning to you.
Jay Weber: Good to talk to you again. You said long ago when Tony Evers brought this up during the campaign we can talk about medical marijuana or reasonable marijuana laws
Robin Vos: Well here’s what’s disappointing and I guess I just kind of gotten used to this style of governing unfortunately under Tony Evers. I have been open to the idea of medical marijuana for five or six years. You know I have some loved ones who have had debilitating diseases where I don’t want them on painkillers as the only option for the rest of their life. So I certainly have a soft spot for things that have a reasonable conversation and you have the chance to do it right.
Robin Vos: So if you were governor Jay I would think that you would maybe reach out to somebody on the other side of the aisle who is a leader like you are and say let’s sit down and talk about this and see what ideas we could put on the table to try to find a way to actually get this done not just post for holy pictures. And I tried to signal to Governor Evers that if this became a route to legalization of marijuana a very difficult thing to do is going to become almost impossible. So rather than reaching out and saying let’s figure out how to actually work together he made the decision to go down the route of saying this is just a first step toward legalization of marijuana which for an awful lot of folks in Wisconsin myself included then is an absolute positive nonstarter.
“I do not support the legalization of marijuana but I think that you could have a situation where in a very limited circumstance through a process which is not growing pot at home you would have the opportunity to have some people who have the ability to have relief from medical marijuana to utilize it. ” — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos
Robin Vos: I do not support the legalization of marijuana but I think that you could have a situation where in a very limited circumstance through a process which is not growing pot at home you would have the opportunity to have some people who have the ability to have relief from medical marijuana to utilize it. But the way he’s launched it like so many other things is kind of half handed and it certainly makes what should be something we could talk about much much much more.
Jay Weber: And it’s really not even a first step. You know when we’re on the medical side of our break these two apart in a moment. But on the medical side you’re talking about dispensaries and everything else with that that’s what that’s what these pro-pot activist groups have been pushing on other states forever. And it just leads to recreational use for everyone. And then I think you and listeners understand the net effect of hisdecriminalization element here is de facto legalization. Having, growing, distributing any amount less than 25 grams effectively legalizes pot in Wisconsin that’s de facto legalization any way anyone can carry or sell that amount. No questions asked. It’s not serious.
Robin Vos: Well and the sad thing is to for all the hue and cry that I’ve heard for the past we need to allow for local control. Right let the local city council or county board make decisions for themselves that shouldn’t always be Madison doing that. We’ve only usually done other things where they’re not even happening in Wisconsin right now and we try to make sure that we keep current law. Now what they propose in Tony Evers’ own marijuana proposal is to say that local municipalities would not be able to set any kind of standards for people at 25 grams or less. So what I think is ironic is in general almost every single talking point that they are utilizing when you sit down do your own research and read the facts you will realize that they are either intentionally misleading what’s happening or dramatically fudging the facts. So on every point that they bring up if you look at the studies the reality is not on their side. I mean as Tony Evers said that there’s you know what did he say 75 or 80 percent of the people are in prison because of drugs. Well that’s an outright lie. That should be a Politifact pants on fire. We know that it’s less than it’s about 10 percent. And on top of that most people who have simple marijuana possession get a ticket at the local level they’re not sent to prison. So this idea that somehow we’re creating prison overcrowding because of marijuana use is totally absolutely not true.
Jay Weber: One of the questions I asked the audience rhetorically yesterday is why if legalizing marijuana is such a great idea. Do the advocates always have to lie or fudge the facts on it. And when it comes to medical marijuana for example let’s take that first then we’ll talk about legalization for everyone. Evers and the left want to marry these two and we don’t need to do one in order to do the other which I think also should be pointed out here. Could we legalize pot and pot extracts from medical use without setting up pot stores and having everyone claimed to have glaucoma?
“And first of all even some of the things that he allows for people to potentially have access to it. I mean that’s the first discussion we have to have if somebody has you know terminal cancer or if somebody has you know a diagnosed disease like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or severe arthritis or something that a doctor has said is a real condition.” — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos
Robin Vos: Well yes. And first of all even some of the things that he allows for people to potentially have access to it. I mean that’s the first discussion we have to have if somebody has you know terminal cancer or if somebody has you know a diagnosed disease like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or severe arthritis or something that a doctor has said is a real condition. I certainly and I think everybody in the audience would be too sympathetic to saying let’s figure out what works for you because for some, opioids work for others perhaps marijuana do. There’s no single answer for every single human being. So I think there’s a way to at least look at those diseases. But you hit the point that is one of the ones that I have major concerns with. I think if you look at states who have done it well and there are some who have done it better nobody’s done it perfectly. They have very limited dispensaries. I mean maybe two or three in the entire state they’re heavily regulated perhaps even owned by the state as opposed to having some kind of a person trying to make you know pot dispensaries all across the state. So I think there are some things we could sit down and look at but it all goes back to the fact that if your end goal is legalization of pot having dispensaries on every corner is what you want because it eventually gets there anyways. And that’s not what I want.
“First of all we’re not going to do it in the budget because it’s not an item that should be discussed. ” — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos
Robin Vos: So I think our caucus has to have a good long discussion of course. I think there’s a lot of skeptics because we want to make sure it is very tightly controlled. But one of the first things that I want to do is to have a very real discussion bring in experts talk to people about what’s been done right and what’s been done wrong. And that’s why kind of throwing this out there half-handedly and saying we’re going to do it in the budget. First of all we’re not going to do it in the budget because it’s not an item that should be discussed. There is such a huge impact and potentially lots of facts that are left on the table. So I think the first thing we do is have a good long discussion about the aspects of medical marijuana how that could actually happen where it’s been done right and then discuss whether or not we can separate the two and actually do one without the other.
Jay Weber: Well let’s move on to the claim that this is also a prison reform or a deep incarceration issue. You mentioned if the governor floated a very false stat that 75 to 80 percent of our prisoners in our state prisons are there on drug crimes. That’s malarkey. It isn’t even close. And the number of people in our prisons for simple pot possession is either zero or nearly zero isn’t it. We do not send people to prison for having small amounts of marijuana or even selling small amounts of marijuana.
Robin Vos: Well and that’s the ironic thing that if you look at the criminal justice reform package that Senate Republicans announced this week one of the things that we want to do is to try to do alternatives to incarceration where we can and once people get out of prison make sure that they have a chance to get a job and not go back to jail. So I think the idea that we already do in Wisconsin D.A.’s, public defenders, court judges have done an excellent job with these diversion programs so it is incredibly insulting to the people who are in the criminal justice system to say that they are locking people up for simple possession because it’s a lie they are doing everything they can to have first time users people who are you know addicted to be able to get treatment to programs so they don’t reoffending don’t commit a crime. So I want to call them out for the great work they’re doing that kind of call them on the carpet as governor Evers is doing.
Jay Weber: I know you know the answer to this but I mean what about decriminalizing the possession and sale of smaller amounts if not 25 grams as easy or even to suggest. What about five grams you know five little joints caught in your pocket. Okay. No big deal. First of all I think that’s normally a ticketable offense anyway in most municipalities but well that’s the whole point is it’s usually done by municipal citations.
Robin Vos: So that is not something where we are going to entertain. I certainly don’t believe that we are. The problem is that the police are not doing their job. I think the police by and large have an incredibly difficult job to do their judgment. If somebody is regularly distributing marijuana they usually will give them a ticket or arrest them that’s appropriate. If somebody is a casual user I just don’t see any facts beyond the rhetoric that they continue to pour out there where this is an epidemic of people going to jail because it’s simple proposition.
Jay Weber: I challenged the audience yesterday to name the merits of legalizing recreational pot use. How is this a positive how does this make Wisconsin better in any way. And I got no response obviously because this move is meritless. It has no merit and I have no question here. I just want to suggest to do to you that that legalizing recreational marijuana aside from maybe tens of millions of dollars more in tax money you could use in Madison the idea itself has no merit.
Robin Vos: Well, and when you actually do your own research don’t just buy the rhetoric of what people who want to use marijuana put out there as facts. First of all we know that about 8 million people in our country use marijuana on a daily basis. OK. That is 12 million people use alcohol on a daily basis. So getting to the point where many of us believe drunk driving is a serious problem. We don’t even have a way to test for impaired driving with marijuana because there’s not a simple breathalyzer or anything like that. So if you think drunk driving is a problem it’s certainly not going to get better by legalizing marijuana.
Jay Weber: Well they’re not they’re seeing they’re seeing that in Colorado and Washington state and in a big way by the way anyway.
Robin Vos: Well you just run up the second point I was gonna make which is in the first four states that legalized marijuana we know that the number of aggravated assaults and serious crimes has gone up by 25 percent since the time period. So the idea that oh if we legalize pot you’ll have less crime. That’s actually not true on the facts. So on every single point that they make. Yeah people are going to create more tax money. Yes it does but it creates an awful lot more social problems. It’s going to reduce prison populations. That’s not true. It’s going to reduce crime. That’s not true. So I think I think if people take the time to actually do their own research and don’t just buy the rhetoric of people who are going to make a lot of money off pot say that the answer becomes pretty clear and recreational marijuana. And it’s a definite non-starter. And once again rather than having a serious conversation Governor egress is kind of half-handedly walks into it and creates it something where a bunch of people think it’s going to happen in Wisconsin. And the reality is it’s got zero chance.
Jay Weber: Well here’s another falsehood that I would add to your list there. The argument that legalized pot dries up the illegal market. Not even close. Colorado, Washington these other these other states are seeing a more robust a bigger illegal market for marijuana because hey if you’re caught with you with you’re caught with a police don’t know whether you bought it from a dispensary or bought it from a private seller an illegal marijuana is still far cheaper than the legal stuff you’d buy through the dispensaries. So the illegal marijuana market has boomed in these states as well. And I know you can’t speak for the Republicans in the Senate but I sense a strong pushback on this from Senator Fitzgerald and his group as well as your fellow assemblyman. This is a non-starter there to say we’re all pretty much in the same place.
Robin Vos: I don’t know the where the Senate is on medical marijuana. I know we are united in opposing recreational marijuana but I think that discussion has to continue about whether or not we could find a way to do very limited medical marijuana for people who medically need it.
More on Robin Vos and cannabis:
Timeline: Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Marijuana
Reaction to Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ cannabis proposals