MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Proponents of legalizing marijuana in Wisconsin, for either medical or recreational use or both, are getting their first chance to make their case at a public hearing of a legislative committee.
The Senate committee hearing Wednesday marks the first time that any bill softening Wisconsin’s marijuana laws has gotten a public hearing. In the past, Republicans who control the Senate and Assembly have not allowed any such bills to see the light of day.
Frustrated marijuana legalization proponents have watched all four of Wisconsin’s neighboring states loosen their laws, making Wisconsin an island of prohibition.
Many said the conversation is long-overdue. However, some, including the state's biggest advocates for legalizing marijuana, say the bill, as-is, doesn't go far far enough.
Senate Bill 1034, which is aimed at legalizing medical marijuana, was up for debate and it was also the first chance the public got to weigh in.
Roy Martin, an army veteran with PTSD says legal use of plant marijuana in Michigan saved his life years ago.
"My lung condition progressed to the point where I was down to 27% lung function, and I was given about 18 months to live," Martin said. "I went to Michigan to try cannabis therapy and after that, I was 100% off pharmaceuticals and back up to 53% lung function."
Republican Senator Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) introduced the bill.
"This is the start of this piece of legislation, it's not the end of it," Felzkowski said.
As is, the bill would legalize medical marijuana with a recommendation from a physician in forms of a pill, liquid or patch. However, it excludes medicinal use of plant-based cannabis.
"We know the devil is in the details when it comes to policy," Sen. Melissa Agard (D-Wisconsin) said.
"This bill would lose our business," Alan Robinson of Herbal Aspect said.
The bill also bars anyone with previous controlled substance offenses from becoming licensed providers. Robinson, a felon, now successfully runs a Madison-based cannabis store, Herbal Aspect. He credits cannabis for helping him with alcoholism years ago.
"The legalization of this bill would lock me out of the cannabis space," Robinson said.
Martin says while this bill wouldn't have helped him in his lung treatment years ago, he believes it should move ahead to at least help some people.