Madison: With just weeks remaining in the 2021-2022 Wisconsin legislative session, Sen. Mary Felzkowski, (R-Tomahawk) and Rep. Pat Snyder, (R-Schofield), joined by six other GOP colleagues in the Capitol's assembly Parlor to announce the introduction of medical cannabis legislation. Felzkowski had also sponsored similar legislation last session.
In remarks at the presser laying out some of the bill's principal provisions, Snyder said the bill creates the Medical Marijuana Regulatory Commission to regulate the medical cannabis program. He promised "a tight regulatory structure" under the commission. The bill requires that doctors and other medical providers must be certified by the commission, a hurdle that could lead to fewer providers willing to recommend.
Rep. Snyder said the bill would allow medical cannabis in "liquid, oil, pill, tincture, or topically applied forms."
A tax would be levied on producers to fund the program (but would still be passed on to patients in higher costs). Due to the restrictive nature of bill, it's likely few producers would find it profitable to do business in Wisconsin, similar to what Minnesota's program has experienced. The lack of availability of flower, the cheapest and easiest to titrate form of cannabis if smoked or vaped, means patients would experience higher costs than medical cannabis states that allow it.
Asked about leadership's views by a reporter, Felzkowski said Senate Majority Leader Devin LaMahieu (R-Oostburg) said "he 's more than willing to allow us to have a hearing on this and start to flesh out the bill". She continued saying the bill as written is "not the bill they expect to pass," as full details would be hashed out (my pun) after introduction.
Felzkowski later replied to another question about smokable cannabis, saying that most members of the caucus "were not comfortable" with smoking marijuana when she held focus groups with them on last session's bill. She said she didn't know if that had changed.
The presser announcing the bill comes just a day after the state senate passed the butane hash bill, Assembly Bill 440; Relating to: butane extraction of resin from marijuana plants and providing a penalty. During the debate, Senate Democrats Agard, Roys, Smith, Pfaff, Larson, Johnson, Erpenbach, L. Taylor and Bewley offered Senate Substitute Amendment 1, legalizing cannabis instead. It was voted down in a 21-12 party line vote.
The timing of this bill seems to be more about politics than compassion, trying to demonstrate that Republicans, seeking to take back the governor's office and increase their legislative majorities in Nov. 2022, are trying to address their well-deserved reputation as world-class cannabigots who regularly shoot down any talk of cannabis law reform. Their passage of their reactionary and prohibitionist butane has bill AB440 the day before only makes this seem more likely.
Meanwhile, Wisconsinites are flocking to dispensaries just over the Illinois and Michigan borders, where weed is legal, although as state residents traveling to at least Illinois have found, not cheap and heavily taxed.
With the session winding down and lawmakers looking to start campaigning for this year's elections, I see it as highly doubtful this bill gets a hearing. Perhaps it will be made a priority to attempt to soften the GOP's poor reputation on cannabis in Wisconsin. As I noted in my recently published letter to the editor regarding the bipartisan but GOP-sponsored decriminalization proposal in the Wisconsin State Journal:
"Opponents of this proposal can likely rest easy. Bills introduced this late in the session generally go nowhere. There was talk of a public hearing, but don't expect GOP leadership to greenlight any discussion. They know a hearing would put their party's prohibitionist ideology on trial and highlight how far behind our state is, and how Michigan and Illinois are making millions off Wisconsinites visiting their marijuana stores."
It's a point I've made before in letters to the State Journal. Perhaps it struck a nerve in the halls of the capitol. At least one can hope.
Short video indicating what forms would be legal, and that smokable cannabis would not (1:11):