Medical Cannabis Bill in Wisconsin Likely Already Dead

April 22, 2022


A measure that would legalize medical cannabis in Wisconsin has apparently reached the end of the line. 

Republican lawmakers, who hold the majority in the state legislature, “allowed a Capitol debate on legislation that would legalize marijuana use, but the step forward for proponents won’t result in a new cannabis law in Wisconsin anytime soon,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

According to the newspaper, a medical cannabis bill got a hearing at the state capitol in Madison on Wednesday that was “scheduled weeks after GOP leaders concluded the Legislature’s work for the year—prompting some Democrats who have long supported legalization to accuse Republican bill authors of using the hearing as a ‘political ploy’ in an election year.”

The bill was authored by a GOP state senator who also leads the committee whose medical cannabis advocacy stems from her experience with breast cancer.

“All of those drugs have severe side effects, some that I realize yet today, which is fine. I mean, I’m alive. But if there was a way that a natural product could have helped me with that?” the senator, Mary Felzkowski, said at Wednesday’s hearing, as quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“When you have a prescription drug that has a horrific side effect, then you’re taking a drug to counteract the side effect … it was unreal. I mean, it’s almost like I went through six months of a fog,” she added.

But the bill was seemingly dead on arrival, with the Journal Sentinel reporting that it “has little support in the state Senate and virtually no chance of advancing, where the GOP leader has said he won’t support such legislation unless the Food and Drug Administration approves it as a prescription drug.”

Cannabis policy has become a divisive issue in the Wisconsin legislature this year. In February, the state’s Democratic governor Tony Evers vetoed a Republican-backed bill that would have imposed stricter and distinct penalties for manufacturing and distributing cannabis or resin by butane extraction.

Evers, who has been vocal in his calls to legalize cannabis for all adults, said the bill was “another step in the wrong direction.”

“I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I object to creating additional criminal offenses or penalties related to marijuana use,” Evers, who is up for re-election this year, said in his veto statement at the time. 

“State across our country—both Democrat and Republican-controlled alike—have and are taking meaningful steps to address increased incarceration rates and reduce racial disparities by investing in substance use treatment, community reentry programming, alternatives to incarceration, rehabilitation, and other data-driven, evidence-based practices we know are essential solutions to reforming our justice system,” the governor added. “The data and the science are clear on this issue, and I welcome the legislature to start having meaningful conversations around justice reform in Wisconsin.”

Neither medicinal nor recreational pot is legal in Wisconsin.

For now, with Republicans controlling the legislature, outright legalization appears unlikely. But in a moment of candor, one top GOP lawmaker in the Badger State recently suggested that such reform might be inevitable.

“Recreational marijuana, I think, has a much tougher path to get through the legislature and eventually signed into law, but I do think we’re heading in that direction,” Jim Steineke, the majority leader in the state assembly, said last month. 

But last year, Steineke’s counterpart in the state Senate, Majority Leader Devin LeMathieu, said that legalization is a nonstarter in the GOP-controlled legislature.

“We don’t have support from the caucus. That’s pretty clear, that we don’t have 17 votes in the caucus for medicinal purposes or recreational purposes [to] legalize it,” LeMathieu said then.

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Republicans in Wisconsin held a hearing for the bill, but its fate seems to be sealed, and it’s not looking good.
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