Sen. Erpenbach, Rep. Taylor, and Sen. Testin Introduce Bipartisan Legislation Bill to Legalize Medical Cannabis in Wisconsin

Posted: September 20, 2019 by Gary Storck
Category: Medical

Bipartisan medical cannabis legislation from Senators Erpenbach and Testin and Rep. Chris Taylor has been introduced today, per a press release from the three lawmakers. Originally, Rep. Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) was also part of the coalition but dropped out and will be releasing her own bill. Testin, who chairs the Senate Health committee, seems likely to potentially hold public hearings on the legislation.

Here is alink to the release

For immediate release: September 20, 2019

For more information, contact:
Sen. Jon Erpenbach, 608-266-6770
Rep. Chris Taylor, 608-266-5342
Sen. Patrick Testin, 608-266-3123

Sen. Erpenbach, Rep. Taylor, and Sen. Testin Introduce Bill to Legalize Medical Cannabis in Wisconsin

The bill provides a legal path to vital medicine for those with debilitating illness

MADISON – Today, Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison), and Senator Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) introduced bipartisan legislation to legalize medical cannabis in Wisconsin. The bill, which is the first bipartisan bill to legalize medical cannabis since 2001, recognizes that people should not have to engage in a criminal act to access medicine for debilitating conditions. It also recognizes the need to regulate the industry in order to provide a safe, legal path for people to obtain that medicine.

Last fall, close to one million Wisconsin voters in 16 different counties and two cities, in both red and blue parts of the state, spoke loudly and clearly in support of medical cannabis. The people of Wisconsin are ready to join 33 other states in legalizing cannabis for medical use.

The proposed bill creates a tightly regulated process that requires a recommendation from a doctor with whom a patient has an established relationship. The bill also requires the Department of Health Services to create a registry system, and requires the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to create a licensing system for growers, producers, and sellers to ensure safety and quality. Finally, the bill makes sure patients can access legally available medicine no matter where they live, even if it is far from a dispensary.

Upon introduction of the bill, Senators Erpenbach, Testin and Representative Taylor, along with medical cannabis advocates, released the following statements:

“Each time we introduce this bill, more and more people around Wisconsin find that someone they know has turned to cannabis as a life-altering medical treatment,” said Senator Erpenbach. “The public support is there, we have a Governor who supports it, the time for medical cannabis is now.”

“Growing up, my grandfather was one of my heroes. I watched as cancer robbed him of his strength and vitality,” said Senator Testin. “I saw him make the decision to go outside the law to seek treatment with medical marijuana. It restored his appetite, and I believe it added months to his life. Doctors and patients, not government, should decide if cannabis is the right treatment.”

“It is long past time for state lawmakers to respond to the overwhelming call from the public to legalize medical cannabis in Wisconsin,” said Representative Taylor. “Nobody should be treated as a
criminal for accessing the medicine they or their loved ones need. This is a long overdue compassionate law that will finally allow sick patients to access the medicine they need.”

“My husband Josh and I see what cannabis is doing for children with Rett Syndrome in other states,” said Megan Lowe, whose 10-year-old daughter Norah suffers from Rett Syndrome, which causes severe impairments and seizures. “Their seizures are disappearing and they are gaining skills back, but why can’t Norah see the relief that they are seeing? A medical cannabis program in Wisconsin would mean that not only Norah, but thousands of other medically complex children, could have safe access to a therapy that works, so they can start enjoying just being kids.”

“My daughter Jessi was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer when she was 32 years old,” said Jeff Fitzrandolph. “We tried to work with conventional doctors who promoted chemotherapy and radiation to solve her problem. After six months all it did was make her sick, lose her hair and feel totally frustrated. We tried alternative treatments, some of which were positive. But ultimately we turned to cannabis oil and it was only then that she was able to get out of bed and live her life normally for the next six months. If we had found cannabis oil earlier in her diagnosis, I really believe she would have survived her battle with cancer.”


Here is the details of the bill from the Legislative Reference Bureau:

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau

Current law prohibits a person from manufacturing, distributing, or delivering tetrahydrocannabinols; possessing THC with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or deliver it; possessing or attempting to possess THC; using drug paraphernalia; or possessing drug paraphernalia.  This bill creates a medical use defense to such THC-related prosecutions and forfeiture actions for a person who is registered with the Department of Health Services as having a specified debilitating medical condition or undergoing a specified debilitating treatment.  The bill also prohibits the arrest or prosecution of such a person for those offenses.  The defense and prohibition do not apply under certain circumstances, such as 1) if the person does not have a valid registry identification card; 2) if the amount of cannabis involved is more than 12 plants and three ounces of leaves or flowers; 3) if, while under the influence of THC, the person drives a motor vehicle or engages in other conduct that endangers another person; or 4) if the person smokes cannabis on a school bus or public transit or on school premises.

Under the bill, DHS must establish a medical cannabis registry, and a person may apply to DHS for a registry identification card.  The bill specifies that the following medical conditions or treatments qualify a person for the registry: cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or HIV, Crohn's disease, a hepatitis C virus infection, Alzheimer's disease, amytrophic lateral sclerosis, nail-patella syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, or the treatment of these conditions; opioid abatement or reduction or treatment for opioid addiction; a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or the treatment of such a disease or condition that causes cachexia, severe pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms; and any other medical condition or treatment DHS designates as a debilitating medical condition or treatment.  DHS must issue a qualified applicant a registry identification card unless, in the previous ten years, the applicant was serving a sentence or on probation for certain violent felony convictions.  DHS must keep registry information and applications confidential except for verifying status for law enforcement purposes.  Under the bill, practitioners may not provide a written certification to obtain a registry identification card for himself or herself or any family member, and practitioners who provide written certifications for registry identification cards may not have any financial interest connected to a person or entity that grows, processes, or distributes cannabis.

The bill requires any person operating as a medical cannabis producer, processor, or dispensary to obtain a license from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.  A producer is defined as a person who grows more than 12 cannabis plants.  An applicant may not obtain a license, and DATCP must revoke a license, if the applicant or licensee is located within 500 feet of a school, distributes more than 12 cannabis plants and three ounces of cannabis leaves or flowers to any person, or possesses an excessive quantity of cannabis as determined by DATCP.  The bill also requires DATCP to register laboratories to conduct testing on medical cannabis.  A producer, processor, or dispensary may not have any financial interest in a laboratory, and a laboratory may not have any financial interest in a producer, processor, or dispensary.  A license issued by DATCP under the bill does not expire unless revoked.  An applicant for a license must pay an initial application fee of $250 and an annual fee of $5,000.

Under the bill, a licensed producer is prohibited from growing medical cannabis for personal, family, or household use and may distribute its medical cannabis only to a licensed processor.  A licensed processor must send samples of the medical cannabis that it processes to a registered laboratory to test the THC concentration of the processor's products and test for the presence of certain contaminants.  A licensed processor may distribute cannabis plants and processed cannabis leaves or flowers only to a licensed dispensary.  A licensed dispensary may dispense medical cannabis only to a qualifying patient or caregiver who presents a valid registry identification card.

The bill authorizes DATCP to inspect, without prior notice, the premises and records of a licensee or an applicant.  DATCP may also establish rules for administering and implementing the medical cannabis program as it relates to producers, processors, dispensaries, and laboratories.  The bill requires DATCP to promulgate rules that are designed to promote and prioritize producers, processors, and dispensaries that are small, local operations.

Finally, the bill prohibits discrimination in employment and licensing against individuals who have valid certifications and registration cards based on their use or possession of medical cannabis off the employer's premises during nonworking hours, unless one of certain exceptions applies.  The bill similarly provides that an employee who is terminated solely due to a positive drug test for cannabis components or metabolites or who violates the employer's policy concerning the use of cannabis is not disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance or worker's compensation benefits if the employee has a valid certification and registration card, unless 1) the employee uses or possesses medical cannabis on the employer's premises or during working hours; 2) the use impairs the individual's ability to undertake adequately the job-related responsibilities of that individual's employment; or 3) the action is necessary for the employer to avoid losing certain benefits under federal law.

The bill changes state law regarding THC.  It does not affect federal law, which generally prohibits persons from manufacturing, delivering, or possessing THC and applies to both intrastate and interstate violations.

Because this bill creates a new crime or revises a penalty for an existing crime, the Joint Review Committee on Criminal Penalties may be requested to prepare a report.