Gov. Evers proposing decrim, medical cannabis as part of his budget; legislature blocks the proposals

Last update: June 9, 2019


Gov. Tony Evers’s first-ever budget as governor included a bold vision to improve Wisconsin’s marijuana laws. He proposed removing all penalties from cannabis possession, expungement, and a comprehensive medical cannabis program.

Unfortunately, the legislature has proven far more behind the times. The Joint Finance Committee removed the medical cannabis provisions from the proposed budget — with every Republican member voting to scrap the compassionate program.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) is outright opposed to medical cannabis, and while Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) said he is “open to medical marijuana when it is prescribed by a doctor,” he claims Evers’ proposal goes too far.

Meanwhile, in November 2018, around a million Wisconsin voters approved advisory questions on their ballots calling for more humane marijuana laws.

More than half of Wisconsin’s population saw cannabis-related measures on their ballots, and every single one of the measures passed. Medical cannabis questions received between 67% and 89% in the 11 counties and two cities where they appeared. Adult-use questions garnered between 60% and 76% of the vote.

Let your state legislators know you want the legislature to finally listen to voters on medical cannabis. It’s past time Wisconsin roll back its cruel and wasteful war on marijuana.

Two of Wisconsin’s neighbors are legalizing and regulating marijuana

In November 2018, voters in neighboring Michigan overwhelmingly approved legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults 21 and older. Possession and cultivation is already legal for adults 21 and older, and regulators are expected to have applications available for businesses in the summer of 2019.

Meanwhile, Illinois’ General Assembly approved a legalization bill in May 2019, which Gov. JB Pritzker championed and is widely expected to sign. The comprehensive measure includes far-reaching social equity and criminal justice reform measures, including broad expungement and reinvestment of some of the proceeds into communities that have been targeted by the war on marijuana.

Wisconsin — which lacks both a decriminalization law and a medical cannabis law — is falling further behind. Wisconsin voters also lack the ability to directly change their laws, since the state does not have a citizen initiative process.

Medical marijuana update

Wisconsin is also becoming an anomaly when it comes to compassionate medical cannabis legislation. Thirty-three other states, including deep red states like Utah, North Dakota, and Arkansas, have enacted effective medical marijuana programs. But in Wisconsin, the only progress that has been made is a very limited law focused on a non-psychoactive component of marijuana, CBD.

On April 17, 2017, Gov. Scott Walker signed Act 4, which expanded the state’s previous limited medical cannabis law, Lydia’s law, enacted in 2014. The original law allowed patients with documentation of a seizure disorder to possess CBD treatments, but it did not legalize the production of CBD products in the state. Act 4 expanded the program to protect all patients who possess CBD and have a letter from their physician. Unfortunately, it remained illegal to produce or distribute CBD products. Sen. Chris Larson and Rep. Jimmy P. Anderson introduced legislation (S 104/A 158) that would allow state-licensed businesses to produce and dispense CBD treatment products.

In late 2017, the state enacted a pilot program to license industrial hemp production, which seemed to provide a potential means of access. However, in April 2018, Attorney General Brad Schimel issued a memo saying licensed hemp producers could not extract and sell CBD oils from the plants. While he rescinded the memo in May 2018, some uncertainty remains and sales have not begun.

Meanwhile, there are a number of “CBD” products available online or in stores, but these products are typically unregulated, and consumers should be cautious. Unfortunately, some products do not actually contain the amount of CBD on the label — or any at all — or they may also contain THC or dangerous compounds such as heavy metals. CBD oil sold in licensed cannabis retailers in states like Colorado, with a regulated market, are subject to laboratory testing, but getting to such stores could be costly and onerous for patients in Wisconsin.

Ask your lawmakers to support a compassionate, comprehensive medical cannabis law.

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