Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced in Wisconsin

Even with bipartisan support, the passage of a medical marijuana bill in the Wisconsin State Senate is in doubt.

A medical marijuana expansion bill has been introduced into the Wisconsin legislature with bipartisan support, having been introduced by Senators Jon Erpenbach (D), Patrick Testin (R), and Rep. Chris Taylor (D).

“Doctors and patients, not government, should decide if cannabis is the right treatment,” Testin said. He later revealed his grandfather had obtained cannabis from the illegal market after being diagnosed with cancer.

In a statement, Taylor said that “nobody should be treated as a criminal for accessing the medicine they or their loved ones need.”

“This is a long overdue compassionate law that will finally allow sick patients to access the medicine they need,” she added.

The proposed bill would have patients register to be accepted into the program, which would be under the control of the state’s Department of Health Services. To be eligible, patients would have to be diagnosed by a doctor with cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe pain, or a chronic disease. They would also have to pay an initial $250 entry fee and an annual fee of the same amount to remain in the program. Felons would not be allowed into it.

To obtain a medical marijuana growing permit, farmers would need a license from the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Production for an initial $250 and $5,000 a year in order to operate. The agency would need to register labs to test the quality of the cannabis produced.

While Democrats have been in support of the bill for quite some time, it has been blocked previously in the Republican-controlled State Legislature. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Republican, has indicated that he is in favor of medical marijuana. His fellow party member Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald however is not.

Fitzgerald said that it would be “a tough sell to a majority of my caucus.” He added many of them feel that legal medical marijuana leads to hospital visits and driving impaired.

Wisconsin’s new Democratic Governor Tony Evers is supportive of the medical marijuana bill and had sought to include it earlier this year in the state’s budget before Republicans removed it.

A poll in April found 83 percent of those polled supported legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. Last year, 61 percent of Wisconsin voters said they supported recreational use marijuana.

Evers took office last year after beating the state’s conservative Governor Scott Walker, who had been in office since 2011.

Winning the War for Legalization

Wisconsin seeks to be the 34th state with a medical marijuana program. Eleven of those states plus Washington, D.C. have also legalized adult-use cannabis.

Wisconsin is one of 14 states with extremely limited medical marijuana programs. In reality, it is a symbolic law that has done little to help patients. It legalizes low-THC oil for child epilepsy patients among others but sets up no mechanism that would allow growers and dispensaries in the state.

However, nine of the state’s major cities have decriminalized possession of small amounts and imposed a fine instead. In the 2018 election, voters in 16 Wisconsin counties and two cities conveyed support for marijuana reform in advisory questions.

Wisconsin is surrounded by three states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes: Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois. Illinois has also legalized recreational use marijuana.

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