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Wisconsin missing out on $200 million of revenue from marijuana, Indigenous cannabis advocate says

From WTMJ Wisconsin’s Radio by Jack Graue April 1 2024

MICHIGAN — Wisconsin is flanked on all sides by states that allow medical and recreational marijuana, but does not legally allow the use of the plant. A legislative effort to bring restricted medical marijuana to Wisconsin fell apart in early 2024. Now, a coalition of Tribal Nations in Wisconsin is trying to take matters into their own hands.

The Indigenous Cannabis Industry Association (ICIA) encourages the exploration and development of marijuana in Wisconsin. Rob Pero is the organization’s founder, and told Wisconsin’s Afternoon News that the state could greatly benefit from legalizing cannabis use.

When asked to estimate what kind of financial benefit the legalization of marijuana could bring to Wisconsin’s Indigenous communities, Pero told WTMJ that “if we had full [legalization of recreational marijuana], and you look at what other states are doing, we could have $200 million.”

This estimate was based on tax revenue realized by other states that legalized marijuana, he explained. Much of that financial impact would go toward Wisconsin’s rural communities where the product would be grown.

However, Pero explained that revenue isn’t the coalition’s main goal: it’s healing.

“It’s about helping people. This is about medicine. This is about public safety and adult choice to plant medicine,” Pero said. “When we think about the hypocrisy of alcohol in our communities — and knowing that we have something out there that is natural, that is a climate-smart plant that we know heals people — it’s just really unfortunate that we’ve led up to this point, and it’s not about economic development. That comes later. It’s about helping people get better.”

The U.S. Senate recently passed a bill that would allow doctors with the Veterans’ Association to recommend marijuana usage in states where it is legal. Pero said this is the kind of development they hope to see because the ICIA believes it is better to treat PTSD with marijuana than alcohol or opioids.

Indigenous nations are allowed flexibility when it comes to what is and isn’t legal inside reservation boundaries. Pero explained that as sovereign nations, Wisconsin tribes could technically legalize marijuana within their reservation boundaries.

However, he cited the fear of repercussions stemming from incidents like the 2016 raids on Menomonee hemp operations as a reason why this has not been implemented. Another key consideration in this decision was the broader impact on Wisconsin.

“There is also the idea of being a good neighbor, you know? Like, this is community. This is our state. Tribes, you know, we take pride. We’re Packer fans. We love the Bucks,” Pero told WTMJ. “We’re community members, and we’re not expecting to just go legal so that we can sell it to our own community. We want to serve the greater state.”

Pero said the ICIA will continue lobbying the State Assembly to bring bills forward that would legalize marijuana, recreationally and/or medicinally. Until progress is made legally, Pero said the best way to encourage change is to have conversations that help move the status quo forward.

“Talk to the people that are on the other side of the other party — the people that you know have a glass of red wine and smoke a doobie too, but wouldn’t be willing to vote that way. Those are conversations that have to be had because ultimately, people are dying. This isn’t about money, this is about medicine.”

For more information on the ICIA’s efforts to increase cannabis access in Wisconsin, visit

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