Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker officially announced his 2016 presidential bid on Monday, becoming the 15th Republican candidate to enter the race for the White House. "Americans deserve a leader who will fight and win for them," Walker said in a tweet posted early Monday morning. The Republican governor is already well-known for his track record on public unions, worker's rights and abortion, but where does Walker stand on legalizing marijuana? His position seems to be in line with most of his GOP challengers.
Walker's home state has been working on legislation to decriminalize marijuana and legalize it for recreational use. In April, state Rep. Melissa Sargent introduced, for the second time, a measure that would allow Wisconsin residents over the age of 21 to possess half an ounce of pot. The bill is backed by the Wisconsin Cannabis Project, who said in a statement at that the time that it's the perfect legislation for a conservative like Walker to support.
"To me, this is a conservative issue," said Wisconsin Cannabis Project President Joe Erato. "What the free market has taught us is that where goods and services are needed they will go. So if there’s a need for cannabis, it’s going to go underground ... and then you’re going to be missing out on the economic opportunity."
It's an argument that has been used dozens of times before, and it's one that Walker isn't buying. When state legislators first introduced the proposal to legalize marijuana in 2014, Walker was ambivalent about the bill.
"I don't think you're going to see anything serious anytime soon here, but if other states did, maybe in the next Legislative session there’d be more talk about it," Walker told Milwaukee news station WITI in 2014, following the first proposal of the bill. "It may be something that resonates in the future, but I just don’t see any movement for it right now."
In 2015, the measure to legalize marijuana still won't find much support from the Wisconsin governor. Although he has kept legalized weed a possibility, many of Walker's public statements take a more hard-line stance on cannabis — and it seems like the substance will never become decriminalized and normalized used during Walker's tenure.
For example, the conservative governor once compared smoking a joint to drinking a beer, coming to the conclusion that there was a huge difference between the two. He told reporters last year:
If I'm at a wedding reception here and somebody has a drink or two, most people wouldn't say they're wasted. Most folks with marijuana wouldn’t be sitting around a wedding reception smoking marijuana. Now there are people who abuse (alcohol), no doubt about it, but I think it’s a big jump between someone having a beer and smoking marijuana.
He added that law enforcement officials in Wisconsin had urged him to reject measures to decriminalize and legalize marijuana in Wisconsin, because they believe smoking weed will lead to harder drugs. "They said when they talked about heroin and meth and other issues that they were still very concerned that [marijuana[ was a gateway drug,” Walker told reporters.
Walker's stance on legalized marijuana is in line with his GOP challengers, most of whom don't support any decriminalization or recreational use of the drug. However, some Republican presidential candidates, such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), have said that they would respect the state laws that have legalized the substance, such as Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Walker has yet to publicly comment if he, as president, would enforce federal laws in states that have legalized marijuana, or allow those states to continue with their state laws.
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