Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Study Finds Legalization of Medical Marijuana Would Result in Over $1 Billion Benefit to the State of Wisconsin

April 19, 2019
Supervisor Yogesh Chawla (District 6) 608.438.5965 Jennifer Johnson (UW Research Team) 608.698.9515
County Board

A recently completed cost-benefit analysis of medical marijuana has found a net benefit of legalization of over $1.11 billion over a five-year period.  Legalizing medical marijuana with decriminalization of small quantities of marijuana possession results in an even greater benefit of 1.14 billion.


The study, completed by graduate students at the UW-Madison La Follette School of Public Affairs at the request of County Board Supervisor Yogesh Chawla, analyzed the costs and benefits of a number of factors, including  administrative costs and benefits, consumer benefits, criminal justice benefits, opioid addiction and overdose risk reduction benefits, fatal accident reduction benefits, and certain health costs. 


“Our analysis found that medical marijuana could have enormous benefits beyond the direct provision of healthcare including an economic impact of over a billion dollars. Despite the lack of federal-level research on the topic, our conservative estimates found a wide range of benefits including reduced jail sentences, arrests, and court cases while also providing another tool to tackle the opioid crisis.,” said Jennifer Johnson on behalf of the UW research team.


Wisconsin residents do not currently have legal access to marijuana for either recreational or medical use. Bills related to the legalization of marijuana for either medical or recreational use have been introduced but have not passed in the Wisconsin State Legislature. Public opinion is increasingly in favor of, at the minimum, legalization for medical use.


In the 2018 November mid-term elections, 16 counties supported non-binding referenda calling for legalization of medical marijuana. In Dane County, 76 percent voted yes to the question “Should marijuana be legalized, taxed, and regulated in the same manner as alcohol for adults 21 years of age or older?”  A Marquette University Law School poll in August found 61 percent support full legalization, with 36 percent opposed.


“The people of Wisconsin have clearly spoken in favor of marijuana legalization, taxation and regulation. In addition to relief it provides patients who are suffering, this report clearly states that there are numerous financial benefits that will reveberate throughout our economy, ” said Yogesh Chawla, Dane County Board Supervisor (District 6).


The purpose of the study was to evaluate the potential social impacts of a medical marijuana program in the state.  In addition to recommending the legalization of medical marijuana and decriminalization of possession of small quantities, the study recommended that the state launch and sustain a targeted public health and safety awareness campaign and evaluate the implementation and performance of the program after two years. Finally, the state agencies responsible for implementing and administering the proposed legalization and decriminalization policy should adopt best practices from other states that have successfully implemented similar policies.


The full report can be found on the UW-Madison La Follette School of Public Affairs website: