As some of our neighboring states legalize medical marijuana, it will not become legal in Wisconsin next year or anytime soon, despite broadening support, said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos — himself an advocate for legalization.
“It’s going to take a while,” Vos told The Associated Press in a Dec. 19 interview. Finding consensus on the issue is difficult because of varied concerns from other Republicans, members of law enforcement and the medical community. “It’s a complicated issue that we want to get right.”
Vos said he believes progress is being made, noting that support has grown among Assembly Republicans from him and one other lawmaker to now almost half of the 63-member GOP caucus. However, Senate Republicans remain opposed, and of course a bill must pass the Senate and Assembly and be signed by the governor before becoming law. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers supports legalizing medical marijuana.
Democrats have long supported legalizing medical marijuana. Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Gordon Hintz questioned the seriousness of Vos’ support.
“There seems to be at least the recognition of members about how out of touch they are with where the public is and where good public policy is,” Hintz said in an interview this week.
For about four years, Vos has supported a limited legalization of medical marijuana, available only for chronic medical conditions with a tightly controlled network of providers that would be regulated by the state. He opposes allowing medical marijuana to be smoked. In 2018, 16 counties and two Wisconsin cities, representing 52% of the state’s population, approved non-binding referendums in support of legalizing either medical or recreational marijuana. A Marquette University Law School poll in April showed 83% of respondents supported legalizing medical marijuana and 59% backed full legalization.
The latest bill, introduced earlier this month, comes from two Republicans: Rep. Mary Felzkowski of Irma and Republican Sen. Kathy Bernier. Felzkowski said her goal was simply to have a hearing on the bill, which would mark the first time such a measure has ever gotten that far in the process. But the bill was blocked within an hour by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
“I want this to become law but people have to trust that it’s going to be a deliberate process, it’s going to take a while,” Vos said. “We’ve got to convince people that it’s the right idea and eventually it will become law.”
We’re sure that Rep. Felzkowski, a member of Vos’ own Assembly GOP caucus, could convinve people. She’s a cancer survivor.
“I took a whole lot of medications with a whole lot of side effects that I still deal with today,” Felzkowski said in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report. “I can look at what happened to me and other people and see that this could be used without those side effects, and I’ll tell you what … those side effects were horrific.”
Wisconsin, the Associated Press pointed out, is an island on pot legalization. Neighboring Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois are among 33 states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. (Eleven states, including Michigan and Illinois, have legalized it for recreational purposes. But that’s another matter for another time.)The Felzkowski-Bernier bill would create a state commission that would be charged with licensing manufacturers and dispensaries of the marijuana and determining whether new medical conditions should make someone eligible.
Under the bill, anyone with cancer, Crohn’s disease, Glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and seizure disorders would be eligible with a doctor’s recommendation. The marijuana could only be manufactured in the form of a liquid, oil, pill, or tincture or in a form that is applied topically.
In February 2017 in this space, we advocated for the legalization of cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, a non-narcotic marijuana extract shown to minimize the effects of life-threatening seizures, and in some cases prevent such seizures. That spring, Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill which facilitated both the purchase and possession of CBD oil.
Today, we’re advocating for Wisconsinites certified as seriously ill by a physician having an alternative to an expensive drug cocktail with nasty side effects.
But we recognize that before that can happen, we’re going to need hearings in the houses of the Legislature.
Leader Fitzgerald, Speaker Vos, it’s time to bring the bill to the floor.