Wisconsin’s Weed Capital: This County Will Blow Your Mind

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Written By Blue & Gold NLR Team





Wisconsin is not a cannabis-friendly state. It has some of the harshest laws and penalties for marijuana possession, cultivation, and sale in the country. However, there is one county that stands out as a weed haven in the midst of prohibition. That county is Dane County, home to the state capital of Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Why is Dane County the Weed Capital of Wisconsin?

Dane County is the weed capital of Wisconsin for several reasons. First, it has a long history of cannabis activism and advocacy. Madison was the first city in the state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use in 1977. Since then, several other cities and towns in Dane County have followed suit, such as Monona, Fitchburg, and Sun Prairie. In 2010, Madison voters approved a referendum to legalize medical marijuana, although the state legislature has not acted on it.

Second, Dane County has a progressive and diverse population that supports cannabis reform. According to a 2019 poll by Marquette University Law School, 83% of Dane County residents favored legalizing marijuana for recreational or medical use, compared to 59% statewide. Dane County also has a large student population, as it hosts the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin system, which has a reputation for being liberal and pro-cannabis.

Third, Dane County has a vibrant and thriving cannabis culture and industry. Despite the state’s prohibition, many people in Dane County grow, consume, and share marijuana. There are also several cannabis-related businesses and organizations that operate in the county, such as hemp farms, CBD shops, cannabis lawyers, and advocacy groups. Dane County also hosts the annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, the longest-running cannabis event in the country, which attracts thousands of people every October.

What are the Challenges and Opportunities for Cannabis in Dane County?

Although Dane County is the weed capital of Wisconsin, it still faces many challenges and obstacles to achieve full legalization and regulation of cannabis. One of the main challenges is the state government, which is controlled by Republicans who oppose cannabis reform. Governor Scott Walker, who was in office from 2011 to 2019, vetoed several bills that would have legalized industrial hemp, medical marijuana, and CBD oil. His successor, Tony Evers, a Democrat, has proposed legalizing medical marijuana and decriminalizing small-scale possession, but his efforts have been blocked by the Republican-dominated legislature.

Another challenge is the federal law, which still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. This means that anyone who possesses, cultivates, or sells marijuana in Dane County, even for medical or personal use, is technically breaking the federal law and could face prosecution by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or the Department of Justice (DOJ). Although the federal government has largely adopted a hands-off approach to state-legal cannabis markets, it still retains the power and authority to intervene and enforce the federal law at any time.

However, despite these challenges, there are also many opportunities and possibilities for cannabis in Dane County. One of the main opportunities is the public opinion, which is overwhelmingly in favor of legalization and regulation. As more and more people in Dane County and across the state experience the benefits of cannabis, whether for medical, recreational, or industrial purposes, the demand and pressure for reform will increase. This could lead to more initiatives and referendums at the local and state level, as well as more lobbying and advocacy at the legislative and executive level.

Another opportunity is the economic potential, which is enormous and untapped. According to a 2018 report by the Institute for Reforming Government, legalizing and taxing marijuana in Wisconsin could generate up to $1.1 billion in annual revenue for the state, as well as create up to 18,000 jobs and save up to $138 million in law enforcement costs. Dane County, as the weed capital of Wisconsin, could benefit greatly from this revenue, as it could invest in education, health care, infrastructure, and other public services and programs.


Dane County is the weed capital of Wisconsin, as it has a long history of cannabis activism and advocacy, a progressive and diverse population that supports cannabis reform, and a vibrant and thriving cannabis culture and industry. However, Dane County still faces many challenges and obstacles to achieve full legalization and regulation of cannabis, such as the state and federal laws that prohibit and criminalize marijuana.

Nevertheless, Dane County also has many opportunities and possibilities for cannabis, such as the public opinion that favors legalization and regulation, and the economic potential that could generate revenue and jobs. Dane County is a shining example of how cannabis can benefit a community, and a beacon of hope for the rest of Wisconsin and the nation.

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