No Devil’s Lettuce in 2023 Badgerland

Patrick McCorkle
4 min readJan 13, 2023

Another year, another GOP figure opposing the devil’s lettuce.

Some things never change, do they?

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) indicated his support this week for medical marijuana, but was unequivocal about recreational, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“I want to make sure that, at least from my perspective, we are crystal clear that this not about a pathway toward recreational marijuana, it’s not about creating a new industry with all kinds of revenue for the state. It’s about making sure that people who suffer with a chronic disease get relief that helps their quality of life be better.

What we said last time around to the governor, if you keep saying this is about recreational marijuana, you’re going to poison the well and make it really hard to get medical marijuana. So my hope is he backs off that and doesn’t include it in the state budget.”

Speaker Vos is threatening to halt negotiations over the state budget due to recreational marijuana. Of all the hills to die on, why this one?

I suppose I should be encouraged by the progress. Who could imagine the GOP voting for medical marijuana 10 years ago? In fact, the sole hearing about marijuana legislation in Madison was in 2009, when Democrats controlled the State Capitol. Since Republicans took control in 2011, there have been no hearings about medical or medical marijuana at all. That is shocking. Not even one time?

If you’re going to be stubborn about recreational marijuana, at least talk about its medicinal use. But in over a decade, there wasn’t one public hearing about it.

To be fair, the evidence is mixed about the medical effects of medical marijuana. The Mayo Clinic states that “studies report that medical cannabis has possible benefit for several conditions” but “further study is needed” to determine if it is safe. There’s evidence already of negative side effects associated with continued marijuana use. WedMD has an exhaustive list.

Furthermore, in states in which marijuana was legalized, there has been a rise in auto accidents. Charles Farmer, Vice President of Research and Statistical Services at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, found that car crashes with injuries rose 6% and fatal crashes rose by 4% in states after marijuana legalization. However, “drivers under the influence of marijuana drive slowly. They may not be able to avoid a crash, but their lower speed may make the collision less deadly.” Farmer doesn’t believe that marijuana is the sole factor of rising accidents in these states, either.

Ultimately, we don’t have sufficient data because marijuana has been criminalized for so long. Still, with the data that we have, the most ardent advocate for marijuana legalization should acknowledge that there are both personal health and public safety drawbacks to recreational marijuana.

But that’s not the point. We all do plenty of things that aren’t the most healthy, both for ourselves and others.

The CDC detailed the negative effects of excessive long term drinking. There are tons of awful side effects but people regularly drink for years and years, which is legal and normal.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 32 people die per day due to drunk driving crashes. There is a death every 45 minutes, less than an hour, due to drunk drivers.

Dr. Salomeh Keyhani commented about the marijuana vs alcohol debate:

“From a medical standpoint, there is no level of alcohol use that is completely safe, as studies have shown harms even with light drinking….new research has challenged the idea that there is any cardiovascular benefit to moderate drinking.”

As the public policy blog Libertarian Jew argued:

“We legalize alcohol and tobacco not only because we know that Prohibition doesn’t work, but also because in spite of the risks of these drugs, it is preferable that we allow individuals to be free to make their own choices. If we allow individuals to consume more harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco, a fortiori, we should legalize marijuana.”

I cannot fathom how the GOP makes opposition to recreational weed as part of their party platform in 2023. The party of personality responsibility, blaming individuals for their actions rather than guns or alcohol, seems to have a huge oversight when it comes to marijuana.

True, we don’t know everything about the green substance, prompting concern over long term health effects. It’s likely that as time goes by, we will have more strategies and develop best practices on how to reduce and avoid these concerns.

It’s important to remember that people have consumed alcohol for generations without knowing or caring about its drawbacks. Despite the awful consequences of the drug on personal health and public safety, there is no desire from either the public or politicians for a neo-Prohibition movement to bring alcohol under control, so why should marijuana be judged more harshly?

From a fiscal standpoint, Speaker Vos and the Wisconsin Republicans want to cut taxes “as much as we possibly can” in a way that is “long term and permanent,” focusing on mandatory, automatic taxes such as property and income taxes, which diverges sharply with Governor Tony Evers and the Democratic vision.

States with legalized marijuana have generated millions in tax revenue based upon a non-obligatory fee on an optional service. Colorado alone has made almost 2 million and Washington has made 3 million since 2014, not counting local sales taxes, which are also significant. For the supposedly freedom minded and fiscally responsible GOP, taxing weed sales seems like a solid step in working together with the Democrats. The actual amount is small compared to the state budget, but it could be an olive branch in an increasingly partisan state whose politics are an imitation of the larger national scene.

Or maybe I am incorrect. Sorry, I must have smoked too much the devil’s lettuce in my parent’s basement.



Patrick McCorkle

I am a young professional with keen interests in politics, history, foreign languages and the arts.