Is Wisconsin ready for the legalization of marijuana? Legislators weigh in

MADISON (WITI) -- The Wisconsin Senate meets on Tuesday, April 1st for the final time this session. 20 states have legalized medical marijuana -- and at least 14 others are considering legislation. Is Wisconsin itching toward the legalization of marijuana?

"Medical marijuana does wonders for people who are in really difficult times right now," Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) said.

Sen. Erpenbach has proposed legislation that would decriminalize medical marijuana.

"You have to be compassionate in these situations. For someone to think, 'no you can't have that' tells me they're kind of heartless right now," Sen. Erpenbach said.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says the issue isn't likely to be voted on any time soon.

"My own personal standpoint is: I don't support medical marijuana or recreational," Sen. Fitzgerald said.

But Sen. Fitzgerald says before any action in Wisconsin, he wants to see how the issue plays out in Colorado, which legalized both medicinal and recreational marijuana this year.

"I'm curious to see what does happen in Colorado. They're reporting revenue numbers in excess of $3 million a month, but along with that is going to be the squeeze on services in that state, so I'm watching what happens in Colorado," Sen. Fitzgerald said.

The issue is clearly volatile among voters. In October, the Marquette University Law School Poll showed 50 percent supported it, while 45 percent opposed it.

The same question was asked in March, and the numbers were essentially reversed.

"There's some argument there that may still develop as the country goes through the process of learning what happens in a state that fully decriminalizes," Professor Charles Franklin said.

Gov. Walker recently said he's taking a wait-and-see approach.

"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," Gov. Walker said.

Democratic challenger Mary Burke says she supports it.

"I think legalization of medicinal marijuana makes a lot of sense," Burke said.

Gov. Walker says his thinking on the issue is heavily influenced by law enforcement officials who view marijuana as a "gateway drug" that could lead to more substance abuse.