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GOP lawmakers try again to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin

Marijuana Legalization
Posted at 12:06 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 18:43:09-05

WISCONSIN — State Senator Mary Felzkowski and Representative Patrick Snyder have reintroduce a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin.

This is the latest attempt by Republican lawmakers to bring the state's marijuana laws into sync with its neighbors of Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota - all of which have legalized it either medicinally or recreationally.

"It is time to have the conversation on the use of medical marijuana for medicinal purposes in the state of Wisconsin," said Republican State Sen. Mary Felzkowski during a news conference on Wednesday.

Sen. Felzkowski said heavy pharmaceuticals helped her deal with stage 4 breast cancer, but that the drugs can be debilitating for patients.

The bill would allow people with certain medical conditions to take medical marijuana through the forms of liquid, oil, pill, tincture, or a form that is applied topically.

Medical professionals would have to recommend marijuana treatments in order for patients to be eligible. Those patients would then have to get it from one of the dispensaries across the state.

Qualifying medical conditions under the bill would include Crohn's disease, cancer, seizure disorders, PTSD, HIV, and multiple sclerosis.

Patients would not be able to plant or harvest their own marijuana, and would only be able to possess a 30-day supply of prescribed doses.

If the bill passes, a Medical Marijuana Regulatory Commission would be created within 30 days of being signed into law. The commission would begin issuing licenses to medical professionals within 180 days of its creation.

The commission would also have a say in what diseases and disorders qualify for medical marijuana usage.

Under the bill, there would be a 10% tax when producers sell it to dispensaries, but patients and caregivers would not pay a tax when purchasing it from the dispensaries.

Democratic State Senator Melissa Agard said the bill is too restrictive.

"We know that in states that have legalized for medicinal as well as for responsible adult usage that you know, people find, find their own way that they want to be able to have access to cannabis," Agard said.

"This bill needs a lot of work, but it's a step in the right direction," said Megan Lowe.

Lowe, who is a mother in Merrimac, said medical marijuana could make a huge difference in her daughter's life. Norah, 13, loves raising butterflies and gardening. However, a neurological disorder called Rett Syndrome causes her to have daily seizures, painful muscle contractions, and other issues.

While Lowe grew up in Wisconsin, she has seriously considered leaving the state since it has not legalized medical marijuana. Lowe said friends in Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan, have seen medical marijuana improve their kid's symptoms.

"If we could try this therapy without having to move out of state it's a win win for us. 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 I just feel like this would be another tool in parent's tool belt we could use to help our children," Lowe said.

According to a brief of the bill, Senator Felzkowski and Representative Snyder are proposing this legalization because Wisconsinites with certain conditions are currently forced to endure pain, traffic drugs into the state, or be held hostage by approved pain killers that may cause serious side effects.

Felzkowski told reporters at a news conference that Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu is “more than willing” to allow a hearing on the measure this time around. Both Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Gov. Tony Evers have expressed support of legalizing medical marijuana.

History of Wisconsin's legalization proposals

This is not the first time state leaders have proposed legalizing medical marijuana.

In 2019, there was a similar proposal to the new one which would have required patients to get approval from their doctor for marijuana use. That inevitably did not go through.

Back in April 2021, Wisconsin Senate majority leader Devin LeMahieu said Republicans in the state legislature won't support the legalization of marijuana anytime soon.

Most recently, the GOP stripped a provision legalizing medical marijuana from Gov. Tony Evers' 2021-23 budget.

Even with the failure to legalize marijuana, there's still strong support for it across the state.

A 2019 Marquette Law School poll found 59% of respondents thought marijuana should be legal, while 36% were against it. In that same poll, 83% said the use of marijuana for medical purposes with a doctor’s prescription should be legal, while 12% said it should not be.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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