MILWAUKEE — More people than ever in Wisconsin want to see pot legalized, according to a new poll. The Marquette Law School poll shows 61 percent of voters want marijuana to be legalized compared to 50 percent of voters back in 2013.
When it comes to legalization of marijuana by party affiliation, 51 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of Democrats support it.
Marquette did not ask specifically how people felt about medical marijuana like it has done in the past. There are two competing bills by Democrats and Republicans in Madison over whether to legalize medical marijuana. Both offer different restrictions on legalizing pot for medical purposes.
TMJ4 News takes a 360 look, examining all sides of the issues of medical marijuana, by talking to a local sheriff worried about the legal problems it could bring to the state, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who have now put up bills, and a mother whose daughter suffers from a rare disease and wants to try marijuana as a treatment.
Megan Lowe’s 13-year-old daughter Nora likes butterflies and gardening. Nora also suffers from a rare neurological disorder called Rett Syndrome.
“My daughter could be seizure free if we drove 75 miles in either direction“ said Lowe.
Megan says her daughter, who is confined to a wheelchair, faces a variety of symptoms along with seizures, including uncontrollable hand motions, painful involuntary muscle contractions, breathing issues and gastrointestinal problems. Megan says Rett Syndrome attacks every system of the body, but there have been children who have seen their symptoms improve with medical marijuana.
"If she could get off some prescriptions that she's on that make her a complete zombie during the day, and then she's up all night,” said Megan Lowe.
Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth understands those concerns, but also worries medical marijuana could be a gateway drug leading to more drug-related crimes.
"You have the black market. You have the cartels from Mexico coming up, and rather than shipping it up, they start producing it in those home states and they just do black market. They don't do it like Wisconsin would like to do or like Illinois likes to do,” said Beth.
On top of that, Beth anticipates Wisconsin’s problem with driving under the influence to get worse with more drugged driving.
"Legalizing it is not going to make Wisconsin better, and for the legislators that are looking forward to one point, whatever billion dollars that Illinois makes in throwing that into the coffers here in Wisconsin, you're just adding more complications,” said Beth.
Wisconsin is one of 13 states where marijuana is not legalized either medically or recreationally.
In a 2019 Marquette Law School poll, 83 percent of Wisconsin voters said they support legalizing medical marijuana. And so do many top Democrat and Republican leaders.
Republican State Representative Pat Snyder sponsored a bill that would create a medical marijuana regulatory commission.
"The commission would then be able to certify licenses to medical doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners,” said Snyder. “This has to be certain considers, ALS, cancer, PTSD and some things the medical society deems fit under this."
Patients would be able to get marijuana in either pill, liquid or ointment form, but they would not be allowed to smoke it or grow it in homes.
A bill sponsored by Democrat Senator Jon Erpenbach allows both of those things. His bill also would include a licensing process overseen by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.
"There would be regulation involved, there would be oversight involved. There would be a list of what would qualify and what wouldn't. And that would be decided by doctors,” said Erpenbach.
The Democratic sponsored bill would not include a tax. The Republican sponsored bill would tax producers who sell to dispensaries. But not patients.
"I don't know why you would call something medical and then tax it. If you call it somebody's medicine you shouldn't be taxing it,” said Erpenbach.
Neither party’s bill has received a hearing in Madison, which is a crucial next step.
“If we get a hearing and hear the positives and negatives we might be able to really attack it next January and get it done,” said Snyder.
The Assembly has already said they are done with floor session for the year. The Senate plans to be in session until March 9th. But it remains unlikely that either will be get a hearing. That means any medical marijuana law is unlikely to be voted on before 2023.