Almost three million voters to consider marijuana ballot measures!
Last update: September 4, 2018
On November 6, 2018, Wisconsin voters in 15 counties and two cities will weigh in on marijuana policies. The non-binding, advisory questions vary by jurisdiction — with some concerning medical cannabis and some focusing on legalizing marijuana for adults’ use.
Voters will consider ballot measures in the cities of Racine and Waukesha, as well as the following counties: Brown, Clark, Dane, Eau Claire, Forest, Kenosha, La Crosse, Langlade, Marathon, Marquette, Milwaukee, Portage, Racine, Rock, and Sauk. The total population of the localities is reportedly 2.8 million — which is about 35% of the state’s population.
Decriminalization and legalization bills introduced
Wisconsin lags far behind most states when it comes to marijuana policy reform. While 22 states have either decriminalized or legalized cannabis for adults’ use, under Wisconsin law, possessing even the smallest amount of cannabis can result in up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. In addition to those penalties, a criminal record can have life-altering impacts, making it harder to get a job, education, and even housing.
Some thoughtful lawmakers are leading the way. On August 24, 2017, Rep. Melissa Sargent filed AB 482, a bill to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults. It would also create a medical program for seriously ill patients in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, in June 2017, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced S 318/A 409, which would reduce the penalty for possessing under 10 grams of marijuana to a $100 fine. Both bills carried over to 2018.
Polling shows that the majority of Wisconsin residents support ending marijuana prohibition. If lawmakers are not willing to respect that, they should at the very least take the step of eliminating the unnecessary and harmful criminal penalties for simple possession.
Medical marijuana legislation
Wisconsin is also becoming an anomaly when it comes to compassionate medical cannabis legislation. Thirty other states, including Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan, 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 remains 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.
While there are a number of “CBD” products available online or in stores, 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.
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