Wisconsin pot legalization bill previewed at Capitol press conference

Posted: July 13, 2017 by Gary Storck
Category: Legalization

MADISON: New Wisconsin State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) held a press conference Thursday July 13 at 10:00 a.m. in the Assembly Parlor at the Wisconsin State Capitol to announce her 2017-2018 session cannabis legalization bill.

Cannabis legalization supporters were on hand alongside a sizeable media contingent as Rep. Sargent discussed her bill. Sargent touted the bill as a way to solve the state’s budget problems. She also noted that until now, no Republicans have signed on, and she expressed hope Republicans would listen this session. Marijuana’s illegality remains the most dangerous part about it in Wisconsin. Rep. Tod Ohnstad (D-Kenosha) also joined Rep. Sargent in supporting the bill. Ohnstad cited the revenues and jobs legalization would create. He also noted the high cost of incarcerating pot offenders.

Watch: Wisconsin Eye Live Feed

Taking questions from the press, Sargent discussed new consumer protections in the 100-plus page bill. She also noted billions in potential revenues making the bill an economic stimulus for Wisconsin.

In response to a question, Sargent noted today is the first anniversary of last year’s Marquette Poll finding 59% suport and noting it was likely higher. She said the people are far ahead of lawmakers on this issue.

Sargent urged supporters to reach out to their legislators to help the bill gain traction with Republican lawmakers. She also noted that passage of the CBD bill acknowledged cannabis is medicine. Sargent also noted that legalization could help address the opioid crisis in response to another question.

Melissa Sargent med/rec presser 7/13/2017

The theme for the new legislation is “Legalize Opportunity.” In a July 11 Facebook post inviting supporters to attend the press conference, Rep. Sargent expanded on that theme:

“This bill is so much more than legalizing marijuana-it’s about legalizing opportunity. The most dangerous thing about marijuana is that it’s illegal, and as our budget crisis worsens and we continue to see new evidence to support legalization’s economic benefits, the more unjustifiable-and even foolish-it becomes not to legalize.”

Comparing the Legislative Reference Bureau’s analysis from each session, LRB-2457 contains a number of significant changes over the 2015-2016 session bill AB224:

Under the 2015 bill, Wisconsin residents over the age of 21 could possess no more than one-half an ounce of cannabis. Under LRB-2457, that amount quadruples to two ounces.

Under the 2015 bill AB224, a person needed a $250 permit to cultivate no more than 12 marijuana plants at one time. LRB-2457 only requires a permit for growing from 7-12 plants, and no fee is specified for the permit

In the medical cannabis section of the bill, the medical cannabis registry card is now valid for four years, up from two. LRB-2457 also prohibits a compassion center from supplying more than 6 plants to a patient, down from 12 in AB224.

LRB-2457 also includes a number of clauses prohibiting discrimination against any individual on the basis of the individual’s use or nonuse of lawful products, subject to certain exceptions. Check out the LRB analysis in the bill text for more details.

Cannabadger will be following LRB-2457 as it is circulated for cosponsors, formally introduced, given a bill number and assigned to committee. While the bill will likely not find a warm reception in the GOP majority state legislature, as Rep. Sargent noted during the press conference, the July 2016 Marquette Law School Poll found support for regulating cannabis like alcohol at 59%, a number undoubtedly now higher. With both medical and adult use holding strong majority support among Wisconsinites, legalization’s time will come, but most likely not the 2017-2018 session, barring a Wisconsin political earthquake.