Could the third time be the charm for marijuana patients in the Badger State?
Two Wisconsin lawmakers have reintroduced legislation that would legalize medical pot in the state. It’s the third stab at getting access to the drug for suffering patients who need it.
“Rather than treating people as criminals, the bill treats them with dignity and with compassion,” said state Rep. Chris Taylor, a Democrat who co-sponsored the bill.
So far, medical marijuana has been approved in 20 states, two of which have legalized recreational weed as well. If Wisconsin gives a green light to medicinal pot, it would be the 21st.
The new bill comes after two earlier attempts in the state Legislature failed, in 2010 and 2012. This time around, the authors have added provisions to square it with other medical marijuana legislation around the country. That includes a provision about edibles, says Gary Storck, spokesman for the group Is My Medicine Legal Yet?.
Storck noted the public strongly supports medical pot. Recent polls show large majorities of Americans back the use of marijuana as a medication.
“There’s public support for this, it’s amazing,” he said. “It the state Legislature would listen to the people instead of lobbyists and special interests, they would’ve passed this bill a long time ago.”
How likely that is to happen this time around is unclear but not terribly hopeful. Both houses of the Legislature are controlled by right-wing Republicans, unlikely to support anything with the word “marijuana” in it. A spokeswoman for Democratic state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, the bill’s other co-sponsor, said in September the bill probably wouldn’t get a public hearing before the Senate Health Services Committee, let alone a full floor vote.
“Unfortunately, our Republican colleagues have not been publicly supportive, and I think it shows how out of step they are,” Taylor said. “I know some have been privately supportive but are afraid politically to come out.”
The legislation, like medical marijuana schemes elsewhere, is designed to increase access for patients who need the drug while restoring their dignity and safety under the law. It would create a patient registry, and the Department of Health Services would issue ID cards requiring renewal every 2 years.
Late in August, the Obama administration cleared the way for states like Wisconsin to authorize medical weed. The Justice Department announced it won’t interfere with states that legalize recreational or medical cannabis as long as they enforce strict regulations that meet certain federal priorities, such as keeping gangs and cartels away from the pot industry.