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Law Wisconsin


Well-Known Member
Wisconsin Democratic governor candidate Flynn favors legalizing marijuana

By The Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. — Democratic candidate for governor Matt Flynn says if Wisconsin voters want to legalize marijuana, he’s all for it.

Flynn on Tuesday called for the Republican-controlled Legislature to put a non-binding referendum on the November 2018 ballot asking if there’s support for the legalization and sale of marijuana.

If it would pass, Flynn says as governor he would push the Legislature to follow through.

There have been small signs of movement in the current Legislature among supporters of legalizing marijuana. A bipartisan bill introduced this year would have loosened penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Related stories
And Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he was open to legalizing medical marijuana, but a Democratic bill to do that has languished.

Gov. Scott Walker opposes pot legalization.
Legalizing Marijuana in Wisconsin
Despite widespread public support, Republicans continues to block reform

As a freshman legislator in 2014, Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) introduced a bill to fully legalize marijuana in Wisconsin. At the time, she found that a lot of residents supported the idea, even if they couldn’t bring themselves to say it out loud. “People would come up to me and quietly say, ‘I’m a fan of the stuff you’re working on’ or ‘Keep up the good work with that one policy,’” Sargent recalls. “It was almost like a wink and a nod. Code words were used.”

Just a few years later, Rep. Sargent has seen a “seismic shift” in public perception. People are much more comfortable talking openly about cannabis, and national polls show a majority of Americans are in favor of its legalization. A 2016 Marquette Law School poll found that 59% of Wisconsinites believe it should be legal and regulated like alcohol.

Eric Marsch, executive director of the Southeastern Wisconsin chapter of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), agrees there is more momentum behind legalization today. Still, he cautions, momentum is not a guarantee. In Wisconsin, the Republican legislative majority continues to resist ideas for reform, and Gov. Scott Walker, a frequent promoter of the “gateway drug” theory, supports prohibition even for medical use. If Wisconsinites don’t vote pro-cannabis candidates into office, Marsch says, legalization is unlikely to happen anytime soon. “When we talk to people now, they say, ‘It’s coming soon, we’re going to get there,’” Marsch says. “But we’re only going to ‘get there’ if people push for it. It’s not just going to happen on its own.”

Lifting the Stigma
In 1970, Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act which classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug with high potential for abuse and no medical benefits. Two years later, the Richard Nixon-appointed Shafer Commission released a report stating that marijuana was, in fact, harmless and recommending alternatives to prohibition. The recommendations were ignored, and the classification remained—as did the negative stereotypes that accompanied it. Against that backdrop, legalization efforts were easy to dismiss. “It’s been such a fringe issue that most people never took it seriously,” Marsch says. “They were told, ‘weed is bad, it makes you stupid and lazy.’ People didn’t have any reason to challenge those misconceptions.”

Advocates have long tried to overcome this stigma by promoting the medical benefits. Gary Storck, an activist and author of the blog cannabadger.com, was a teenager when he started treating his glaucoma with marijuana. He has now spent decades pushing for legal medical marijuana in Wisconsin by lobbying elected officials, attending demonstrations and writing hundreds of articles and letters to the editor to combat the “media demonization” that he says has kept cannabis on the fringe.

At hearings, Storck has joined fellow patients in testifying about how medical marijuana helps them treat a range of conditions. Although the pro-cannabis message has historically been “a hard sell,” he says, it’s often the medical benefits that turn people around. “Someone might say it’s a bad thing, and then if they or someone they love gets sick, they’ll see that it can help them,” he says. “Suddenly, they’ll think this is a very useful plant, and if patients can use this safely for debilitated health, why can’t anybody use it?”

As marijuana’s reputation pivots from gateway drug to multi-purpose medicine, support has gone up, and many elected officials have taken note. Legalization and regulation of marijuana is now part of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s platform, and many of the candidates for governor are openly pro-cannabis. Candidates like Democrats Matt Flynn and Mike McCabe and Libertarian Party candidate Phil Anderson have participated in Southeastern Wisconsin NORML’s events. For Storck, seeing candidates be upfront with their support signals a major change. “For years, we’d have to do things like call in to radio shows with loaded questions and try to get candidates’ comments about it. But they would never voluntarily comment,” he said. “This time around, they understand. They’ve seen the polling.”

Watching Other States
In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. Today, marijuana is legal in nine states (and Washington, D.C.) and decriminalized in 13. A total of 29 states now allow medical use of marijuana.

The impact of legalization and regulation can be felt, and measured, in a lot of ways. State agencies and media are closely tracking rates of criminal activity, arrests, impaired driving incidents and economic bumps. On its website, NORML has collected peer-reviewed reports linking regulation to benefits like job creation, tax revenue and reduced alcohol consumption. A pair of 2018 studies suggested it might even help curb the opioid epidemic.

Additionally, some of the biggest fears around legalization seem not to have materialized. Surveys in Colorado and Washington show no significant increase in teenage marijuana use and no rise in criminal activity. The rate of traffic fatalities also has not changed, although both states have seen an increase in traffic fatalities in which the deceased driver tested positive for marijuana. Sargent says that impaired driving is always a “major concern,” and that marijuana should be included in the bigger traffic safety conversation, alongside alcohol, texting and fatigue. As more states reform their laws, Sargent observes that it’s important to consider all of the results—both good and bad—rather than be swayed by any one study or data point. “You can always find a scientific paper out there that’s going to reinforce whatever you believe,” she says. “So it’s really important to study this from all dimensions.”

Marsch says the fact that legalization “didn’t make the sky fall” in other states has helped normalize the concept in Wisconsin. In 2018, the state did take the unexpected step of legalizing industrial hemp farming with a unanimous vote in the Wisconsin Senate. “That was huge,” Storck says. “I never expected that under Walker.”

Nevertheless, the Republican-controlled legislature continues to block broader reforms. In the 2017-’18 legislative session, lawmakers introduced a number of cannabis-related bills, proposing ideas like reduced fines for possession of less than 10 grams, legal medical use, and an advisory referendum on medical marijuana. All of them failed to pass.

Marijuana and the Criminal Justice System
In Wisconsin, first offense marijuana possession is punishable by fine or up to six months of incarceration. A subsequent offense is a Class I felony, which can carry a sentence of up to three-and-one-half years in prison. These laws have been criticized not only for their harshness but also because of how they are enforced. Research shows that black and white people use marijuana at roughly the same rate, but African Americans are three-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested for it, according to the Brookings Institute. In Wisconsin, records show the disparity is much more severe.

The Wisconsin Justice Initiative, analyzing Milwaukee County arrest records from 2015 and 2016, found that 86% of the people arrested for second-offense possession (with no other crime involved) were African American. In the city of Milwaukee, it found that 70% of marijuana possession cases filed were against African Americans, who make up only 40% of the city’s population. In Madison, a city widely thought of as pot friendly, black people account for about 7% of the population and more than half of marijuana arrests.

The disproportionate enforcement of drug offenses is a prominent cause of the glaring racial disparity in Wisconsin’s criminal justice system. Even in states like Colorado, where pot is legal and arrests have plummeted, the imbalance in enforcement persists. For this reason, advocates regard legalization not as solution to racial bias in the criminal justice system but as a step toward it. “Once we legalize marijuana, we will be able to address things like our egregious racial disparity,” Sargent says. “This is one way that we can have a direct impact.”

At the local level, some Wisconsin cities have decriminalized pot by reducing the penalty for possession. In 2015, Milwaukee voted to reduce the penalty for marijuana possession from $250 to $50. In 2017, Monona (in Dane County) voted to remove possession fines altogether.

Taxes and Jobs
Proponents also frame legalization as an economic solution, providing opportunities to save money and to make it. Wisconsin currently spends millions of dollars a year on the criminal enforcement of marijuana. A given marijuana arrest, for example, costs more than $400 in law enforcement resources. In 2016, the state arrested 16,000 people for possession alone. And, of course, with legalization comes tax revenue. Colorado reportedly made some $500 million in tax revenues from marijuana sales between 2014 and 2017. Sales in Washington generate hundreds of millions of dollars a year, much of which goes toward public health programs like Medicaid.

Under a bill Sargent introduced in 2017, medical dispensaries would pay annual fees to the state, and producers and sellers of recreational marijuana would be subject to a sales tax and excise tax. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue has predicted that the bill would generate $138 million in tax revenue by 2021. In addition to the potential windfall, Sargent says legalization and regulation would boost the economy in other ways, including job creation.

Even without legalizing marijuana, some lawmakers say, the state’s workforce could benefit from a more lenient approach to it. In 2018, Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) proposed legislation to bar employers from drug testing for THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol, one of at least 113 cannabinoids identified in cannabis and the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis). Although it did not pass in this session, Bowen says the bill received “overwhelming support” across the state, and he plans to introduce it again. While he supports legalization, Bowen admits it’s unlikely to go very far under Wisconsin’s current political leadership.

This bill would address a specific problem without having to wait for that longstanding debate to change course. “Legalization is not what we’re proposing,” he says. “We’re talking about people having access to jobs and not being discriminated against because they consume THC.” With employers trying to fill positions, and many people looking for work, Bowen says, cannabis should not be a barrier to employment. “We need those folks to be working, to be able to provide for their families,” he says. “That should be the number one concern, not punishing people because they consume a harmless substance.”

A Popular Movement; a ‘Homegrown Solution’
Since 2014, Sargent has continued to introduce bills that would legalize marijuana. The legislation has evolved during that time as she has spoken to more people about it and incorporated their perspectives and concerns. “This is a homegrown solution,” she says. When legislation passes quickly, Sargent notes, it’s often because it happened behind closed doors, with little chance for public input. By contrast, marijuana reform in Wisconsin has been a long, slow process. But it’s also been out in the open and driven by the public.

In May, Southeastern Wisconsin NORML held its eighth annual March for Cannabis in Milwaukee, attended by several hundred people including activists, elected officials and several gubernatorial candidates. “I think it fires people up that we can have this conversation,” says Bowen, who spoke at the march. “Voters are hungry for a chance to further the conversation, rather than the Republican majority saying, ‘We’re not going to talk about it.’”

On the national scale, Marsch says that marijuana legalization “has only happened because of the people.” Apart from Vermont, he notes, all of the states that have fully legalized did so through a ballot initiative. Since Wisconsin does not allow ballot initiatives, change will have to come through the legislature. In May, the Milwaukee County Board voted in favor of a referendum for the Nov. 6 ballot, which will ask voters if they support legalizing cannabis for adults. Milwaukee County residents will then be able to weigh in on the legalization debate, and voters statewide will elect the governor and lawmakers who will shape it in the years ahead.

“These decisions on legalizing and decriminalizing have a vast impact on citizens all over the state, from our economy to our workforce to our future,” Bowen says. “And I look forward to a legislature and a governor that will really give this issue the time of day.”

What Wisconsin voters need to know about November ballot issues

The fall campaign for cannabis, aka marijuana, will soon be visible in more than a dozen Wisconsin counties as volunteers put up yard signs and knock on doors.

Here's a voter's guide on everything you need to know about the ballot issues:

Know your ballots
Voters in 16 counties and two cities will find marijuana use referendum questions on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

All are advisory referendums and do not require the Legislature to take action. But responses of voters will provide marijuana legalization activists with a measure of public opinion that they will use to encourage lawmakers to relax or eliminate current prohibitions on pot.

Milwaukee, Dane, La Crosse and Rock counties are asking voters for their opinions on legalizing personal use of pot for adults 21 years and older if sales are taxed and regulated.

Ten counties and the City of Waukesha focus their ballot questions on medical use only.

Clark and Brown counties ask if medical marijuana should be regulated as a prescription drug. The other eight counties ask if voters approve of medical use of marijuana if it is recommended by a physician. Those eight are Forest, Kenosha, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Marquette, Portage and Sauk.

Eau Claire and Racine counties have included multiple questions on legalizing recreational and medical uses, as well as imposing taxes.

The City of Racine added a referendum asking if marijuana use should be decriminalized.

Poll support
A recent public opinion poll indicates a majority of voters will approve marijuana uses listed on their ballots.

A Marquette University Law School Poll of Wisconsin voters in August found that 61 percent of respondents said marijuana should be fully legalized and regulated like alcohol while 36 percent opposed legalization. Support has grown from a July 2016 poll that found 59 percent of respondents supported legalization and 39 percent were opposed.

Convincing voters
Eric Marsch, executive director of Southeastern Wisconsin NORML, a marijuana advocacy group, said local campaigns in support of wider marijuana use in the state will pick up the pace and become more visible, particularly in the Racine County backyard of state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and in Waukesha County.

"We want to make sure we have the support of conservatives," Marsch said.

The Colorado experience
Colorado was an early adopter of legalizing the medical and recreational use of marijuana.

In 2010, legislation was passed there to license medical marijuana dispensaries and making of marijuana edibles for medical purposes. By the end of 2012, there were more than 100,000 medical marijuana user cardholders and 500 licensed dispensaries, according to an October 2017 report by the multistate Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

In November 2012, Colorado voters legalized recreational marijuana allowing individuals to possess an ounce of marijuana, the report said. The measure also permitted the licensing of marijuana retail stores and marijuana edible manufacturers. By June 2017, there were 491 retail marijuana stores in the state compared to 208 McDonald's restaurants.

Law enforcement officials say the widespread availability had an impact on traffic safety.

"Marijuana-related traffic deaths when a driver was positive for marijuana more than doubled from 55 deaths in 2013 to 125 deaths in 2016," the October 2017 report said.

But a study published in the American Journal of Public Health that analyzed fatal car crashes from 2009 to 2015 in Colorado and Washington found "no significant association between recreational marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado and subsequent changes in motor vehicle crash fatality rates in the first 3 years after recreational marijuana legalization."

Understanding medical marijuana, THC and CBD
Medical marijuana refers to the use of unprocessed marijuana plants or extracts to treat symptoms of illness or other medical conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the cannabis plant as medicine.

Marijuana contains a family of dozens of chemicals known as cannabinoids. This group includes the mind-altering chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Another is cannabidiol.

THC revs up the brain, causing the "high" or sense of euphoria that people feel.

The FDA has approved THC-based medications in pill form for the treatment of nausea in chemotherapy patients and to stimulate appetite in patients with extreme weight loss caused by AIDS.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, doesn't make people high and it isn't intoxicating. The FDA approved a CBD-based liquid medication for the treatment of two forms of severe childhood epilepsy. Wisconsin currently limits the availability of cannabidiol products to treatment of seizure disorders.

Since marijuana is still a federally controlled substance, federal law prohibits prescriptions for the plant. To get around this prohibition, states with medical marijuana programs use the terms physician recommendations or referrals.

In considering medical marijuana regulation, states must address how to regulate such recommendations as well as the dispensing of marijuana and registration of patients, according to a June 2018 report by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Marijuana-impaired driving law
At this time, it is against the law in Wisconsin to drive with a detectable amount of a controlled substance in the blood. Period.

This is known as a "zero-tolerance" law.

For marijuana, a federally controlled substance, prosecution requires only a detectable amount of delta-9-THC in a blood sample, even if a driver claims the marijuana use came a day or more prior to the traffic stop.

In Wisconsin, there is no required proof of impairment at the time of arrest to convict someone of driving under the influence of marijuana.

Detecting marijuana-impaired driving
THC, like alcohol, interferes with the brain's ability to function properly, slowing reaction time and impairing coordination needed for safe driving, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After alcohol, cannabis is the next most common drug linked to impaired driving nationally.

The Wisconsin State Patrol is participating in pilot tests of the marijuana-equivalent of a hand-held analyzer for alcohol on someone's breath, known as a breathalyzer, said David Pabst, the agency's director of transportation safety. No such unit is available now for wide-scale use.

Nearly 3,800 law enforcement officers around the state have been trained to determine if drugs other than alcohol, including marijuana, played a role in driving violations or crashes, Pabst said. The program is known as Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement.

Another 280 officers from both urban and rural departments in Wisconsin have completed a four-week-long training course to become certified as drug recognition experts.

Marijuana-use regulation in other states
Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use, according to a July 2018 update by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia allow comprehensive medical marijuana programs while Wisconsin and 14 other states allow limited use of only low-THC cannabidiol products by prescription, the NCSL report said.

Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law, making distribution of it a federal offense. Substances in this schedule, which also includes heroin, have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Legislatures in several states have asked Congress to move marijuana to a different schedule of regulated substances or allow state authority for marijuana policy.

Gov. Evers to propose decriminalizing recreational marijuana

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers will propose decriminalizing marijuana in his plan for the next state budget.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports Evers also will propose legalizing marijuana for medical conditions including cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.

Under the proposal, people with previous convictions for possessing small amounts of marijuana could have their records expunged.

The proposal also will allow possession and use of a marijuana derivative used to treat seizures — CBD oil — without a doctor’s certification.

Evers will release his proposed budget on Feb. 28. The new Democratic governor previously advocated decriminalizing marijuana but didn’t give details.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said he opposes medical marijuana and isn’t sure such a law could pass the chamber.
Wisconsin favors legalizing cannabis, but hurdles remain

MADISON, Wis. — Gary Storck has been here before.

For decades, Storck, a longtime medical marijuana advocate from Madison, has been pushing the state Legislature to legalize his medicine. Storck suffers from glaucoma. He uses cannabis to slow progression of the disease, which is gradually robbing him of his sight.

The first big moment was in 2002, when statewide polling found that 80.3% of Wisconsinites supported medical marijuana. Storck was ecstatic. When he first heard the numbers, "I jumped in the air about a foot, I think. I was so happy to see that level of support."


The nonprofit news outlet Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism provided this article to The Associated Press through a collaboration with Institute for Nonprofit News.


Storck was convinced that this would be the moment to finally legalize medical marijuana. Volunteers from Is My Medicine Legal Yet?, a group that Storck co-founded, placed copies of the polling results in every office at the State Capitol.

"We thought, they see this, they're going to pass it," Storck said. "Well, it didn't happen." A bipartisan bill sponsored by former Republican Rep. Gregg Underheim of Oshkosh did not make it out of committee.

In 2009, Wisconsin Democrats swept into power and took control of the governor's office, the Assembly and the Senate. Medical marijuana was back on the table, with help from politicians including Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-West Point. Political support seemed to be on the upswing.

That year, a public hearing was held. "People came from all over the state," Storck said. "It was an eight-hour, standing-room-only public hearing. A lot of patients, they drove so far, and they were waiting and waiting, and they had to leave."

Fifty-five people spoke in favor of the bill; another 49 registered in favor. Five people spoke against it.

"It seemed like the stars had aligned for us," Storck said.

But the bill, unable to garner enough bipartisan support, never got a vote. Powerful interests, including the Wisconsin Medical Society and the Wisconsin Department of Justice, were opposed.

While Wisconsin's laws on marijuana have stayed largely the same — and federal law continues to ban use and sales — bordering states have begun to move on the issue. Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota have all legalized medical marijuana, with Michigan also legalizing recreational use in 2018.

Overall, the medical use of cannabis is legal in 33 states, along with the District of Columbia and several U.S. territories. Recreational use is legal in 10 of those states plus D.C. A legalization push in New Jersey, which is controlled by Democrats, recently failed after lawmakers could not reach consensus.

If Illinois were to legalize recreational marijuana — which newly elected Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker lists as one of his top priorities — Wisconsin residents could drive a short distance for an over-the-counter purchase. With such easy access, Storck said, "I don't know how long prohibition can last."

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm believes legalization is imminent.

"The reason I say it's coming is that pretty much across the state, law enforcement has de-emphasized marijuana enforcement, particularly for possession," said Chisholm, a Democrat. He noted that in many areas, police officers prefer to give tickets rather than arrest those caught for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has announced proposals to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin, decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug, allow expungement for possession charges and update state laws governing cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-intoxicating over-the-counter treatment for anxiety, seizures and inflammation.

Evers also has said he would consider legalization of recreational use if voters approved it in a statewide referendum.

Evers' proposals have been lauded by Democratic state legislators — and even some top law enforcement officials — who have seen support for legalization grow in Wisconsin in recent years. In January, a Marquette Law School Poll found that 58% of Wisconsinites believe marijuana should be legalized and regulated like alcohol, with 36% opposed.

In November, local advisory-only referendums in support of marijuana legalization were passed in large numbers across the state, including 16 counties and two cities. Whether the question was about medical or recreational marijuana, no measure passed with less than 60% support, and no measure was rejected.

Evers' plan could help standardize marijuana enforcement in the state. The city of Milwaukee and Dane County have already decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. However, other jurisdictions continue to aggressively enforce anti-possession laws, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said.

A first offense for possession can be charged as a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Subsequent offenses can be charged as a felony and carry a maximum penalty of 3.5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

While Mahoney, a Democrat, has no problem with residents of Dane County who are "smoking a doobie," he said statewide law enforcement groups would oppose legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Mahoney said he has moved toward the center of the legalization debate — in part because members of his family use cannabis medicinally — but he does not support recreational marijuana at this time.

"I want to see more research," Mahoney said.

Evers' plan has also been endorsed by other Wisconsin top law enforcement officials, including Chisholm, who believes that the proposal could help to reduce disparities in how marijuana possession is treated around the state.

"I think that what the governor's attempting to do is just saying, 'Look, major sections of (local) ordinances allow less than 25 grams to be a ticket (rather than a crime),'" Chisholm said. "Why not just incorporate that into the state law, and that does away with some of the unequal enforcement rates."

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, opposes most of Evers' plan.

The governor's proposal "makes it easier to get recreational marijuana and provides a pathway to full legalization, which I do not support. I'm open to medical marijuana when it's prescribed by a doctor but it has to be done in a targeted way without allowing recreational use," Vos said in a statement.

In an email, an aide to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, reiterated his previous positions in opposition of legalization. Fitzgerald also has been quoted as saying he does not believe that there is enough support within the Republican-controlled Senate for movement on the proposals.

And there are groups, including Smart Approaches to Marijuana, that would likely mobilize if Wisconsin proposes legalizing the drug for recreational use. SAM spokesman Colton Grace said the group pushes for alternatives in states considering legalization, including allowing medicinal uses as approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"We don't support the status quo . we support decriminalization," Grace said. The group's message: "Decriminalize, don't legalize."

An important provision of the proposals is the legalization of medical marijuana, which Evers says was influenced by his experience as a cancer patient. Evers beat esophageal cancer about 10 years ago. Some cancer patients use marijuana to combat nausea from chemotherapy and to curb cancer pain.

Alan Robinson, executive director of the Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), said he uses cannabis to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and post-traumatic stress order, or PTSD, which he developed after the drug overdose death of a close friend.

"It wasn't until a friend urged me to smoke weed that I began to feel some relief," said Robinson, who sports dress socks featuring marijuana leaves. "This was the first time that I had slept the whole night through in years, and it was life-changing."

Currently, the FDA has approved only one drug, Epidiolex, that contains an active component of marijuana. Epidiolex is used to treat seizures related to two rare syndromes. Three other FDA-approved drugs, Marinol, Syndros and Cesamet, contain synthetically derived components. Marinol and Syndros are approved to prevent weight loss in AIDS patients, while Cesamet treats nausea and vomiting in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Greg Kinsley is a medical marijuana advocate with Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that can cause abdominal pain and severe diarrhea. In 2014, Kinsley used a doctor's note to avoid possession charges under an obscure Wisconsin law that allows patients to have a controlled substance with a valid prescription or order.

Kinsley believes it is time to legalize.

"We are a country of laws," he said. "If the law's not quite right, we as a people need to change that."

Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, said she has never used marijuana. But Sargent has become the face of marijuana legalization in the past three legislative sessions. She has introduced legalization bills after hearing stories of the medical benefits that constituents have experienced and the negative consequences of marijuana-related arrests and convictions.

"I very quickly realized that the most dangerous thing about marijuana in Wisconsin was that it was illegal," Sargent said.

This year, Sargent is working on a new bill that she said will go beyond Evers' proposals and call for full legalization for both medical and recreational marijuana. As with Evers' plan, Sargent's bill would also allow nonviolent offenders to wipe marijuana-related possession convictions from their records "in ways that they currently cannot."

When asked what he would say to lawmakers in Wisconsin in a 1-minute pitch for legalization, Robinson responded: "I would definitely try to impress on them that cannabis is likely more popular in their district than they are."

Sargent agreed: "People across the state of Wisconsin are far ahead of policymakers when it comes to this piece of legislation."

Chisholm believes Evers' proposal represents "an opportunity to educate everybody — even the people that are adamantly opposed to it."

People like Storck, who have long been waiting for legalization, hope that 2019 is not a repeat of the past.

"The push for medical may be a step too far for some, as well as the proposed decriminalization, but these issues have majority popular support, and I hope the GOP will listen to the will of the people," Storck said.

The nonprofit news outlet Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism provided this article to The Associated Press through a collaboration with Insitute for Nonprofit News.
Powerful interests, including the Wisconsin Medical Society and the Wisconsin Department of Justice

I am so sick of people reporting opposition of groups like this without discussing the probability that all they are doing is try to protect their place at the trough.
Bill introduced to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin

The bill is bipartisan, introduced by two Democrats and one Republican.

A group of lawmakers launched another push Friday to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin, introducing a bill that would allow patients to use the drug if they register with the state and create a licensing system for growers.

Thirty-three states, including neighboring Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois, have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and 11, including Illinois, have legalized it for recreational purposes.

The Wisconsin bill's authors, Sens. Jon Erpenbach and Patrick Testin and Rep. Chris Taylor, said in a joint statement that the time has come to lift the state's restrictions.

Erpenbach and Taylor are Democrats. Testin is a Republican.

"Doctors and patients, not government, should decide if cannabis is the right treatment," Testin said.

Democrats have tried to get some form of marijuana legalization passed in every legislative session for the past decade.

Despite Testin's support, the latest bill faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he's been open to legalizing medical marijuana for years and wants to work on the issue this fall.

But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said he doesn't support it.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers proposed legalizing medical marijuana in the state budget but Republicans removed the provisions from the final spending plan.

Fitzgerald's spokesman, Alec Zimmerman, had no immediate comment on the bill.

But Fitzgerald's position is unlikely to change; he's running for Congress next year in a traditionally conservative southeastern Wisconsin district and signaling support for marijuana could motivate potential primary challengers.

Under the bill, patients looking to use marijuana for medical purposes would have to join a new state Department of Health Services registry.

To qualify for the registry, a person would have to be suffering from any of a wide range of ailments, including cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe pain and chronic disease.

A doctor would have to diagnose the ailment and explain the potential risks and benefits of medical marijuana to the registrant before he or she could join the list.

Applicants would have to pay a $250 registration fee and an annual $250 fee.

The registry would be sealed to the public. People convicted of a violent felony wouldn't be allowed to join it.

The bill also would set up a licensing system for medical marijuana growers through the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

A grower would be defined as someone who grows more than a dozen marijuana plants.

Applicants would have to pay a $250 initial fee and a $5,000 annual fee.

Licensees would be prohibited from growing marijuana for personal or family use.

Evers tweeted Friday that he supports the bill, pointing to a Marquette University Law School poll from April that found that 83 percent of respondents supported legalizing medical marijuana.

"It's time for Wisconsin to do the right thing and allow doctors to prescribe medication that's best (for) their patient and their families," Evers wrote.
Sturgeon Bay common council slashes marijuana possession fines

STURGEON BAY - If you're caught with less than one ounce of marijuana in your home, you no longer owe a fine after a Sturgeon Bay common council vote Tuesday.

The council voted 5-1 to eliminate fines for only the homeowner holding a small amount of marijuana in one's permanent residence. District 5 Alderperson Gary Nault voted no, and District 2 Alderperson David Hayes was absent.

People carrying less than one ounce of marijuana in public must pay $50 on their first offense, then $100 for all following incidents, reflecting the city's open carry law for alcohol.

Marijuana is illegal under state law, so people would still receive a citation.

The ordinance amendment came into conversation when voters overwhelmingly expressed wanting to eliminate fees for both medicinal and recreational marijuana possession.

District 6 Alderperson Seth Wiederanders advocated for the change, bringing the amendment back to the table even after the council struck down his recommendation in July.
Crossing State Lines to Buy Legal Pot

Wisconsin is now an island surrounded by a sea of legal pot, with medical marijuana being allowed in Minnesota and recreational use legal in Canada, Michigan and, most recently, Illinois. By the beginning of 2020, both Illinois and Michigan dispensaries will be freely selling marijuana. This begs the question: Can Wisconsinites just cross a state line and buy legal marijuana in neighboring states?

The long-and-short of it is “no.” Not only is marijuana still banned in Wisconsin, but transporting it across state lines is a federal crime, even if recreational marijuana is legal in the place where it originates. In fact, crossing the state line with cannabis from a legal state to another legal state—for instance, from California to Oregon—is still strictly prohibited according to federal law. Moreover, although Illinois residents can possess up to one ounce of marijuana, out-of-staters will be limited to half of that: 15 grams.

However, there is little doubt we will witness some form of mass movement toward states where marijuana is legal, be it to simply buy and consume it on location—such as many non-Dutch Europeans do in Amsterdam, Netherlands—or to bring it, albeit illegally, back home to Wisconsin.

Bracing for the Green Rush

For pot lovers in southern Wisconsin, New Year’s Day, 2020, is a day to mark on the calendar, as it’s when Illinois dispensaries will start legally selling marijuana to anyone 21 years old or older. As Madison and Milwaukee are close enough to make the trip and back in a couple of hours, dispensaries near the border expect a large portion of their clientele to come from the Badger State starting that very day.

Amy Manganelli, who runs the Illinois dispensary Mapleglen Care Center near the Wisconsin border, as quoted in Madison’s The Capital Times, attests there is keen interest from Wisconsinites. “We have gotten hundreds of phone calls since May from people saying they’re in Wisconsin and asking if we’ll be open on Jan. 1” she said.

“I think Wisconsinites will go to Illinois and Michigan to get cannabis,” says Alan Robinson, executive director at the Wisconsin branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which aims to educate the electorate on everything related to marijuana. “We can also expect the police to ramp up their rhetoric.” Increased police presence and traffic stops are to be expected near the border starting Wednesday, Jan. 1. “But I don’t think the police will have an easy time stopping them,” he adds. “The police can’t distinguish hemp flower and marijuana. The smell of fresh flower does not give the police probable cause, as hemp is totally legal here.”

A Boon for Black Market Cannabis

Robinson warns that Wisconsin is in a particularly precarious situation, now that it became so easy for residents to get marijuana. “Our black market for cannabis here will increase dramatically [after Illinois’ legalization day]; medical and recreational users will cross the border to get access to cannabis, and you can expect to see more cannabis available in Wisconsin. And that is not a good thing. When those products go into the black market, they become unregulated and unsafe.” One solution for him: legalization and regulation in Wisconsin, to offer a safe alternative.

This is not a new phenomenon. For instance, when recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado, it kick-started a large smuggling ring to obtain legal pot there, either by growing or buying it, and then exporting it to other states where it remained illegal. “It is becoming almost routine across much of the country—law enforcement intercepting Colorado marijuana products being exported to other states,” explains PBS reporter John Ferrugia.
Well, 61% of his electorate don't give a shit what he thinks and favors legalization. WI voters, please invite Mr Voss to do something else for a living, yeah?

Speaker Vos open to medical marijuana in 'pill' form, opposed to it being smoked or edible
Medical community opposed to medical marijuana

MADISON, Wis. - In Wisconsin, public support is high for marijuana, and multiple surrounding states have legalized the drug in some form. News 3 Now is taking a closer look at what it would take to legalize medical marijuana in the Badger State.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who has said repeatedly that he is open to medical marijuana, exclusively shared his plans for future legislation with News 3 Now.

"I hope the people who want medical marijuana respect the fact that we are trying, that it’s not an easy task and that we’re going to do our very best," Vos told News 3 Now.

The speaker said he wants the drug to be legalized for medicinal purposes in a limited way that doesn't involve "a marijuana shop on every corner." He has some conditions though. He does not support the current proposal from Republican Sen. Patrick Testin and Democratic Rep. Chris Taylor and Sen. Jon Erpenbach, calling it "way too broad."

Vos said he will not support a bill that allows people to grow weed themselves. Instead, he wants medical marijuana to be supplied and regulated more like a prescription painkiller.

"It shouldn’t be smoked. It should be taken in pill form. It shouldn’t even be edible so a child could get at it," Vos said.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers included a much broader version of medical marijuana legalization in his state budget proposal. The provision was stripped from the state's two-year spending plan by Republican lawmakers.

Evers advocated for possession, manufacturing or distribution of marijuana in amounts of 25 grams or less to be decriminalized. The plan included in his state budget proposal would have established an expungement procedure for individuals convicted of possessing, manufacturing or distributing less than 25 grams of marijuana who have completed their sentence or probation.

Last month, the governor named legalizing medical marijuana as one of his top priorities for the fall session, along with gun control.

For this story, Evers' office referred News 3 Now to his previous comments about medical marijuana, declining to comment on whether the governor would support Vos' plan.

In April, the Marquette University Law School poll showed 83 percent of respondents in Wisconsin support legalizing medical marijuana and 12 percent do not. The support for full marijuana legalization was lower but still a majority, with 59 percent saying the drug should be legal and 36 percent saying it should not be.

Vos admits he has his work cut out for him in convincing other GOP legislators to support medical marijuana, saying he does not believe a majority of Republican representatives currently back the idea.

Their opposition stems in large part due to the concern that legalization for medical use will turn into recreational use, something Vos does not personally support. He also said he does not support decriminalization of marijuana because it is a federal crime.

The Republican leader of the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, is long opposed to medical marijuana being legalized in Wisconsin.

News 3 Now asked Fitzgerald, who is running for Congress, why he does not support medical marijuana and whether he has discussed the issue with Senate Republicans.

He said in a statement, "We’ve seen that other states with easier access to marijuana have struggled with an increase in emergency room visits and impaired driving accidents. I don’t support these efforts to legalize marijuana in Wisconsin and I think that all of the proposals currently out there will be a tough sell to a majority of my caucus."

In 2020, three out of the four states surrounding Wisconsin will have legalized the drug in some form. Michigan residents voted to legalize marijuana in 2008 through a ballot measure, which is not allowed in Wisconsin. Minnesota's state legislature approved it for medical use in 2014 and Illinois' Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law this year allowing full legalization after the state legislature approved it. Illinois' law goes into effect in January 2020.

Medical community
Legalizing medical marijuana in any form will likely face opposition from Wisconsin's medical community.

"The majority of Wisconsin physicians do not favor medical marijuana," said Dr. Molli Rolli, past president of the Wisconsin Medical Society.

The Wisconsin Medical Society, which calls itself "the largest physician advocacy organization in Wisconsin," updated its policies on issues related to marijuana during a meeting of its House of Delegates earlier this year.

The organization, which represents nearly 12,500 doctors, took an official position to oppose medical marijuana and support decriminalization of marijuana in small amounts. The society has no position on recreational marijuana.

Rolli, cites a lack of high-quality research about marijuana because it is still classified as a Schedule I substance under the national Food and Drug Administration's Controlled Substances Act.

As a psychiatrist, Rolli said she would have little interest in prescribing the drug to her patients if it were legalized.

She wants to dispute the idea that medical marijuana is a "baby step" or "compromise" toward full legalization of marijuana and said instead, they are two separate issues.

"(Legalization of medical marijuana) leaves physicians in charge of who gets marijuana and who doesn’t, and we really object to being put in that position. We didn’t ask for it," Rolli said.

Because of the medical community's opposition, Vos said he would like to find a way to leave doctors largely out of the conversation and not have to prescribe it. Instead, he believes patients should be able to make the decision for themselves.

"I think that could be an area where consensus is because it doesn’t involve the medical community other than the diagnosis which they already do," Vos said.

His hope in keeping doctors out of the prescription process also stems from the fact that federal law prohibits the prescription of marijuana. Medical marijuana "prescriptions" are more often called "recommendations" or "referrals."

He doesn't necessarily believe that a medical marijuana card -- as almost every other state with a medical marijuana program has done -- would be necessary, saying that the diagnosis itself should be enough.

As for what conditions Vos' plan would cover? He listed a few examples, such as terminal cancer, Crohn's disease, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and other diagnoses that involve chronic pain.

Copyright 2019 by Channel 3000. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

A way to provide relief
Heather Haas and her husband live in a house in the Town of Roxbury, outside of Sauk City in Dane County. They have five children, one of whom is 10-year-old Halden.

Halden was diagnosed with a severe form of autism and PANDAS/PANS, an autoimmune disorder that attacks his brain. His mom said he has severe anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, anger and aggression. He also injures himself, sometimes to the point of bleeding.

"He is a danger to himself most assuredly and it’s heartbreaking when I have to hold my son down, hold him down to keep him from making himself bleed. That’s the stuff other people don’t know," she said.

A special room in her family's home -- which she calls Halden's "safe place" -- has a trampoline, swings and other obstacles for him to use. For example, she explained, jumping off the swing and hitting the floor helps with sensory inputs in Halden's feet.

She takes him on long drives because they're calming and said it is difficult for him to handle any loud public environments.

As far as medications go, Halden's mom has pretty much attempted it all. He has tried five psych medications and takes two-three medications daily. She said cannabidiol, or CBD, oil helps, but it's not enough.

"Here’s a kid who could have pain in multiple places, which he usually does, and there is not one med that can fix that. Oh yeah, there is. It’s called cannabis," Haas said.

Haas has since become an advocate of medical marijuana, imagining the possibilities it could provide to her family and potential improvements to Halden's quality of life.

"If we had access to medical cannabis, I could actually take him to a zoo. I could take him to a waterpark in the Dells. He loves the wave pools, but it’s too much," she explained.

However, Vos' proposal of a medical marijuana pill is not winning any pointers with the Haas family.

"No. Absolutely not," Haas said at the mention of the proposal.

She believes providing marijuana in a pill form would cause it to lose the natural qualities that would make it helpful to her son. Halden also is unable to swallow pills, she said.

Vos said he would consider drafting a medical marijuana bill in the near future, an unusual move for an Assembly speaker. If not, he said one of his colleagues would likely draft a proposal.

He called it "very unlikely" that medical marijuana will pass this legislative session but said he hopes there will be a good discussion surrounding it in the "next several years."

"I think it’s probably realistic for us to spend this session doing an awful lot of the due diligence to say, 'OK, in our caucus what could be supported?" Vos said.

There is not a specific state the speaker plans on modeling Wisconsin's legislation after, but he did ask the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures to send him data on each state's laws regarding their medical marijuana programs. Vos is the current president of the NCSL.

The medical marijuana laws vary greatly from state to state. For example, Minnesota only allows limited liquid extract products. Puerto Rico does not allow the drug to be smoked. In New York, medical marijuana cannot be smoked and ingested doses are not allowed to contain more than 10 mg of THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that gives the "high." West Virginia does not allow a "whole flower" and does not allow the drug to be smoked, but it can be vaporized.

The speaker may face difficulties in getting Republicans in the state Senate on board.

Testin, a Republican senator from Stevens Point who is sponsoring a medical marijuana bill, wrote a September op-ed about how his grandfather's cancer and chemotherapy treatments led him to seek relief with medical marijuana. Testin wrote that the drug restored his grandfather's appetite and he believes it added months to his grandfather's life.

"I believe both parties in the legislature can come together on this issue and get results for patients in Wisconsin," Testin wrote.

When News 3 Now asked how Vos planned to get Fitzgerald's support on his medical marijuana plan, he pointed out that Fitzgerald's candidacy for Congress could play a role in the conversation.

"Chances are, (Fitzgerald's) not going to be here next session. So, it’ll mean a whole new dynamic with other leaders in the state Senate who perhaps would be more open to (medical marijuana)," Vos said.
"A Marquette University Law School poll from April also showed 83% of respondents support legalizing medical marijuana and 59% backed full legalization."​
Well, in that case the people of WI should have no problem in replacing these "representatives" with people who will actually....well, represent them. Yeah?

Controversy surrounds GOP bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin

GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- When it comes to legalizing the use of marijuana in Wisconsin, many state lawmakers would describe the process as an uphill battle.
"We are truly an island. You got Illinois not only doing medical but recreational, you got Michigan doing recreational and Minnesota's medical marijuana," said Democratic Senator Dave Hansen.

But in the latest attempt to legalize the drug for medical purposes here in the state, two Republican lawmakers have come forward with a new bill. However, Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has already rejected the proposal, saying he personally opposes the idea and doesn’t believe his GOP-controlled chamber is on board.
"It's pretty sad when you have a majority leader and majority party that's not doing what's best for the public. I know there are Republicans out there that want to fix this medical marijuana bill, it should be a part of the solution to allow people to get the treatment they need," said Hansen.

For Republican Representative John Macco, the push to legalize marijuana is personal.

"I think Sen. Fitgerald was a little bit quick in his critique and I would have liked him to have a little bit more open-mindedness," expressed Macco.
Macco said his wife has been traveling to other states in order to use the drug as a treatment for cancer.

"For us to have access to that is a real blessing, add I'm frustrated because not everyone has that same access and I wish they would," he said. "I think there needs to be the tools available for all individuals to have the same access to healthcare that we do."

Macco hopes the medical marijuana legislation is brought up for debate, but at this time no such debate is planned.

A Marquette University Law School poll from April also showed 83% of respondents support legalizing medical marijuana and 59% backed full legalization.
Wisconsin lawmakers take another stab at passing medical marijuana bill

Amid increasing availability of marijuana in neighboring states, lawmakers in Wisconsin are vying to pass at least limited medical cannabis legislation.
Last week, following several unsuccessful attempts, two Republicans, Representative Mary Felzkowski and Senator Kathy Bernier, introduced a bill to legalize medical cannabis.

The bill is inspired by rising public support and their own personal experiences with cancer.
“Each one of us knows someone that has suffered through an illness. Medical marijuana is just another tool in the toolbox to help our suffering loved ones make it through the day with some semblance of normalcy,” said Felzkowski, who battled through cancer in 2014 with the help of strong opioids.

Had she had the chance to medicate with cannabis, Felzkowski says she would have jumped at the opportunity and feels that the federal government shouldn’t make those kinds of choices for her.

This latest bill to offer people suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS, MS, PTSD, and other conditions alternative treatment would allow medical marijuana with a doctor’s prescription access to weed and only in the form of liquid, oils, tinctures, and pills.

Support among Wisconsin GOP still scarce
Despite this being a rare attempt by members of the GOP to pass marijuana legalization bills, a fellow Republican appears to have already nipped the proposal in the bud.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of the Wisconsin state legislature said that, aside from him personally being against the bill, he feels his chamber would not be interested in the idea.
“It’s pretty sad when you have a majority leader and majority party that’s not doing what’s best for the public. I know there are Republicans out there that want to fix this medical marijuana bill, it should be a part of the solution to allow people to get the treatment they need,” Democratic Senator Dave Hansen commented on the news.
A Marquette Law School poll from earlier this year revealed that a substantial majority of Wisconsin voters support the “use of marijuana for medical purposes with a doctor’s prescription.”

Meanwhile, as some Wisconsin residents explore the option of purchasing their cannabis products in the neighboring states of Michigan and Illinois, the sheriff’s department in Kenosha County warned that marijuana is still illegal in the Badger State.
“Wisconsin state laws and Kenosha’s local ordinances have not changed, and the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department will continue to operate as normal enforcing these laws and ordinances,” the sheriff’s department said in a news release.
“It is going to be business as usual for the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department. We will still enforce Wisconsin law even though the substance was legally purchased in Illinois,” they added.

City Council Majority Backs Allowing Public Marijuana Use In Wisconsin State Capital

Local lawmakers in Madison, Wisconsin are proposing an expanded marijuana decriminalization ordinance that would allow adults to possess and consume cannabis in private and public settings, with certain restrictions.

The municipal measure would not change overarching state prohibition laws but would make it so that the police department wouldn’t refer certain cases for prosecution.

The proposal would build on the capital city’s existing decriminalization policy, which was first enacted in 1977. While that ordinance covers possession of up to 112 grams of cannabis in a private area, the new measure would expand it so that people 18 and older could possess about an ounce of marijuana in public without fear of prosecution as well, as long as they have the permission of the area’s manager such as landlord or business owner.

Ald. Mike Verveer (D) introduced the legislation, which has also been cosponsored by 12 of the City Council’s 20 members. The Public Safety Review Committee is set to hold a hearing on the measure on Wednesday.

“I’ve long supported a more progressive and rational cannabis policy in Madison, and I long have felt that beyond Madison, Wisconsin should have moved long ago to legalize regulated adult use for both medical and recreational marijuana,” Verveer told The Capital Times, adding that “this is long overdue because, just like Wisconsin has fallen behind the times in terms of rational cannabis policy, Madison has as well.”

Two other ordinances that have also been filed recently would revise the city’s cannabis policy in additional ways. One would “create an exception for possession of drug paraphernalia for cannabis and cannabis derivatives use” under local statute and the other would make it so marijuana couldn’t be consumed in places where tobacco use is prohibited.

As it stands, possession in a public space is punishable by a $100 local fine, while paraphernalia can get a person up to a $500 fine.

Under the proposed decriminalization ordinance, possession while operating a motor vehicle would still be prosecutable. People who have a doctor’s approval for cannabis use would be exempted from penalization for possession.

“While it is currently a violation of state statute and federal law to possess or consume cannabis or cannabis derivatives in the City, at the direction of the Dane County District Attorney’s Office, the Madison Police Department would not refer charges for cases that only involve possession of less than 28 grams of cannabis,” a summary of the legislation states.

Ald. Max Prestigiacomo (D), a cosponsor of the ordinance, said that the current “structure of fines and fees in this city effectively criminalizes poverty and often criminalizes homelessness” and that “compounding and successive fees coupled with restricting where consumption is allowed are direct causes of this injustice.”

“Both my own personal interest in the decriminalization of not just cannabis but all fines and fees that criminalize a public health issue pushed me to sponsor this,” Prestigiacomo said. “Not to mention, these fines are disproportionately used against marginalized people of color foremost.”

The acting chief of the Madison Police Department has raised issues with the proposal.

“I’m concerned that the city is putting forth a policy allowing 18 year-olds to smoke marijuana, but not drink alcohol,” he said. “I also am concerned that these ordinances don’t do enough to keep marijuana out of the school environment.”

“Generally, it seems better to have decisions on marijuana decriminalization happen at the state level,” he told The Wisconsin State Journal. “Changing the ordinance can create confusion. It also removes the option for officers to issue a municipal citation rather than proceed with a criminal charge when action is needed.”

Gov. Tony Evers (D) is in favor of marijuana reform, including both cannabis decriminalization and medical marijuana legalization in his budget proposal last year. However, Republican leaders stripped those policies from the plan.

In January, Evers called out state lawmakers for declining to pass legislation legalizing medical cannabis despite widespread public support for the policy.

State legislators did file a bill last year to remove criminal penalties for possession of up 28 grams of marijuana, but that did not advance.

Three jurisdictions in Wisconsin voted in favor of non-binding resolutions expressing support for the legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes last year. That followed the passage of other cannabis ballot measures in 16 counties in 2018, including one approved by 76 percent of voters in Dane County, where Madison is located.

Lawmakers In Wisconsin Capital Vote To Allow Marijuana Use In Public

City officials in Madison, Wisconsin, have voted to remove most local penalties for marijuana possession and consumption, effectively allowing cannabis use by all adults 18 and older.

The Madison Common Council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to approve a package of three ordinances overhauling the city’s marijuana laws. Taken together, the changes permit adults to carry up to about an ounce (28 grams) of cannabis locally and consume it on public or private property. Possession of marijuana paraphernalia will also be allowed.

Smoking cannabis will remain prohibited in places where cigarettes or other tobacco devices are banned, and no one can have marijuana on school buses or within 1,000 feet of a school. Consumption on private property, meanwhile, requires permission of the property owner, landlord or tenant; otherwise it will carry a $1 fine.

Laws against marijuana distribution will remain intact, allowing police to bring charges against anyone they suspect of selling the drug. Driving under the influence of a controlled substance also remains illegal.

Alderman Michel E. Verveer (D), who introduced the legislation, said at the meeting that the changes were “long overdue.”

“The reality is that we shouldn’t even be talking about this tonight,” Verveer said, calling it “preposterous and outrageous that the Wisconsin state legislature has not moved long ago toward legal and regulated adult use of cannabis, like so many other states have across the country, including many of our neighboring states.”

Verveer has worked to get his colleagues on board, and as of last month more than half of the council had signed on as co-sponsors, virtually guaranteeing passage of the measures.

While the new policies in Madison won’t establish a commercial cannabis industry, Vermeer said that eventual legalization would bring in significant tax revenue and other benefits for the state.

Reforms, including the local measures, will also address “undeniable racial disparities” in how existing marijuana laws have been enforced, Verveer said at Tuesday’s meeting, citing decades of police data.

“Based on a 20-year study of casual possession of marijuana ordinance citations issued by the Madison Police Department,” he said, “approximately 51 percent of those citations were issued to whites, and a little over 43 percent were issued to Blacks. That of course is despite the fact that our Black brothers and sisters in no way are anywhere close to 43 percent of our community’s population today.”

Studies indicate racial groups tend to use cannabis at similar rates.

“I wish we didn’t even have to have these items on our agenda tonight,” the alderman said.

While marijuana remains against state and federal law, a summary of the local legislation states that “at the direction of the Dane County District Attorney’s Office, the Madison Police Department would not refer charges for cases that only involve possession of less than 28 grams of cannabis.”

The changes approved Tuesday won’t affect marijuana rules at the state’s largest college, the University of Wisconsin (UW) at Madison. The university newspaper, the Badger Herald, reported that students found with cannabis or paraphernalia on campus may continue to be cited by UW Police.

Students 18 and over would, of course, be able to possess and consume cannabis off campus. In an email to the Herald, Verveer said he intentionally set the new initiative’s age limit at 18 in order to allow UW students to benefit. Most legalized jurisdictions have set marijuana age limits at 21.

Madison’s changes replace existing cannabis laws in the city, which punished possession in a public space with a $100 fine. Possession of paraphernalia, meanwhile, carried a $500 fine.

The city nevertheless has a long history of decriminalization. A policy enacted in 1977 allows residents to possess up to 112 grams of cannabis on private property.

On the state level, Gov. Tony Evers (D) has said he supports cannabis reform, including both decriminalization and medical marijuana legalization. In January, he called out state lawmakers for declining to legalize medical marijuana despite widespread public support.

Lawmakers also filed a bill last year to remove criminal penalties statewide for possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana, but that measure failed to advance.

At the ballot box last year, voters in three Wisconsin jurisdictions voted in favor of non-binding resolutions expressing support for at least some form of marijuana legalization. That followed the passage of other cannabis ballot measures in 16 counties in 2018, including one approved by 76 percent of voters in Dane County, where Madison is located.

Wisconsin GOP Lawmakers File Bill To Decriminalize Marijuana, While Governor Pushes Full Legalization

Gov. Tony Evers (D), meanwhile, is asking lawmakers to fully legalize cannabis through his budget proposal.

By Isiah Holmes, Wisconsin Examiner

A bipartisan bill aiming to reduce existing fines for possessing cannabis is getting another shot in the Wisconsin Assembly. The bill would reduce fines for possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis from no more than $1,000 to $100, while eliminating the six months of imprisonment that may come with that charge under current law.

Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) is the only senator sponsoring the bill thus far. In early 2020, Bernier, along with then-state Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma), pushed legislation for legalizing medicinal cannabis in Wisconsin. In the wake of that move, Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers) introduced a bill to drop the existing fines for 10 grams of cannabis or less.

Wisconsin has become an island surrounded by U.S. states, and an international neighbor to the north, with legalized cannabis. This reality has compelled some lawmakers on both the state and local levels to continue to push for reformative policies.

Much has changed in the year since those initial pushes in 2020. Felzkowski is now a state senator, some anti-cannabis GOP lawmakers are no longer in the state Assembly and Senate and the country is still reeling from the economic costs of the pandemic, which arrived just a couple months after Bernier, Felzkowski and others first drafted the cannabis bills.

Local municipalities, including Madison, Appleton and Milwaukee have also explored the possibility of lowering fines and de-prioritizing cannabis enforcement. Lowering fines, however, is not the same as legalizing the plant. Gov. Tony Evers has rekindled efforts to bring cannabis legalization in the upcoming state budget, pointing to it as a possible significant boost to Wisconsin’s ailing economy. Republican leadership, however, remains generally resistant to cannabis reform in Wisconsin and has declared his budget dead on arrival, including full legalization.

“I support the concept of the bill Senator Felzkowski and I introduced last session regarding medical marijuana,” said Bernier in a co-sponsorship memo for the new bill. “The federal government still considers marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. I believe that needs to be changed. However, it is clear there is not legislative support for this change, just as there was not an appetite for the medical marijuana bill introduced last session. Rather than acknowledge that, the Governor decided to issue a half-baked scheme to legalize recreational marijuana on Super Bowl Sunday, barely a week before his budget address.”

Bernier has stated that Evers’ strategy was not one of cooperation with the GOP. “I wish I could have spoken with the Governor beforehand,” she said. “He has to know this plan does not yet have legislative support and he should have known better than to treat an issue that requires the utmost cooperation with such carelessness.”

The state’s biennial budget process is in its initial stages. What provisions may make it into the final bill is far from determined.

This story was first published by Wisconsin Examiner.

Madison, Wisconsin: First City in U.S. to Allow Public Pot Smoking

In December, Madison, Wisconsin legalized use and possession of marijuana, joining a handful of other cities that have liberalized their cannabis laws. The new law also allows adult residents to smoke pot on public sidewalks. The caveat is no smoking in school zones or on State property, such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and parks.

"I think that Wisconsin is an outlier, even in the Midwest and you're starting to see cities move forward with it," State Senator Christopher Lawson commented at the time. "Milwaukee has done things in the last couple of years, lowering fine and stop clogging up the criminal justice system."

Madison residents are now allowed to smoke marijuana in public.

It appears that Madison is the first city in the U.S. to allow public smoking. We reached out to several industry experts for comments. None could name another city with such a poilicy. Publc marijuana smoking, unlike tobacco, is generally banned, even in states where cannabis is legal.

MPP's communications manager Violet Cavendish tells CelebStoner: "I'm not aware of any other U.S. cities that allow for public consumption."

Drug Policy Facts editor Doug McVaysays, "It's the only place I've ever heard of. A quick search revealed nothing about any states or cities allowing public use."

NORML did not reply to CelebStoner's query.

Other cities that have legalized marijuana include Breckenridge and Denver, Colorado; Portland and South Portland, Maine; and Washington, DC. Many other cities, including Milwaukee, have either decriminalized or depenalized cannabis use and possession.

Madison is also the home to the Wisconsin State Capitol and the Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, which takes place on State St. annually on the first weekend of October.

Wisconsin Governor’s Marijuana Legalization Proposal Stripped From Budget By GOP-Led Committee

A GOP-led Wisconsin joint committee on Thursday voted to scrap the governor’s budget proposal to legalize marijuana in the state—one of nearly 400 provisions that were eliminated.

In a vote of 12-4, the Joint Finance Committee removed language that would establish an adult-use cannabis market and medical marijuana system. The move was widely anticipated in the Republican-controlled legislature, and it’s led to calls from Gov. Tony Evers (D) and other Democratic policymakers to have residents put pressure on their representatives to support the administration’s agenda.

Evers released details of his proposed legalization legislation through his budget request in February. It would have allowed adults 21 and older, or qualifying patients, to purchase, possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use. Residents could possess up to two ounces of marijuana, while out-of-state visitors could have up to one quarter-ounce. Adults could grow up to six plants for personal use.

Other budget items that the committee eliminated include ones to expand Medicaid, make it easier to have criminal records expunged and reduce the state’s prison population.

“Today, Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee voted to remove nearly 400 initiatives from our budget—including items like BadgerCare expansion, marijuana legalization, and bold steps to address the climate crisis,” Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) said. “They’re putting our economic recovery and our future at risk.”

This is the second time that the governor has included marijuana reform in his budget request only to have that provision stripped by the Republican-led legislature.

Evers held a virtual town hall event last month where he discussed the cannabis proposal, emphasizing that polling demonstrates that Wisconsin residents back the policy change.

“In one of the rooms I work in at the Capitol, on the ceiling it says: ‘The will of the people is the law of the land,’” Evers said, “and I take that seriously. When people are passing referenda to say, ‘We believe that we should have recreational marijuana and/or medicinal marijuana,’ that’s what we should do as legislators and as leaders in the executive branch.”

Prior to the event, he released a video where he complained about hearing from the governor of neighboring Illinois, where legal sales launched in January 2020.

“Frankly I’m kind of tired of talking to the governor from Illinois,” he said. “Whenever I get with him, he thanks me for having Wisconsinites cross the border to buy marijuana.”

Locally, Wisconsin voters in three jurisdictions last year approved non-binding advisory questions in favor of marijuana legalization. Those moves came after Wisconsinites overwhelmingly embraced cannabis reform by supporting more than a dozen similar measures across the state during the 2018 election.

Late last year, city officials in the state’s capital, Madison, voted to remove most local penalties for cannabis possession and consumption, effectively allowing use by adults 18 and older.

GOP lawmakers have filed bills to decriminalize marijuana possession in the state. But none of those proposals have advanced so far this session.

Wisconsin Lawmakers Push to Legalize Cannabis

Wisconsin lawmakers are presenting legislation in the Senate that could make cannabis legal. Now, it just needs to advance.

Wisconsin Senator Melissa Agard wants to finally legalize marijuana in Wisconsin. This week, the midwestern state’s lawmakers introduced legislation in an attempt to make it a reality. More than 60 percent of Wisconsin citizens already support fully legalizing marijuana, while over 80 percent support legalizing the consumption and selling of medical marijuana.

Agard announced the legislation outside of South Beloit’s marijuana dispensary. It’s located right on the state line between Illinois and Wisconsin. “Not only will this proposal allow our state to right past wrongs, it will also open countless doors to our farmers and agricultural sector to participate in a growing industry,” Agard said. “Wisconsin can no longer ignore the cannabis industry—we are losing out on millions of dollars and family sustaining jobs to our neighboring states.”

Agard has been advocating for legalizing marijuana for years. She is one of the new bill’s many Democratic sponsors in Wisconsin. By passing the bill, the senator wants to generate more economic support for the state. “Not only will this proposal allow our state to right past wrongs, it will also open countless doors to our farmers and agricultural sector to participate in a growing industry,” Agard said.

“Wisconsin can no longer ignore the cannabis industry—we are losing out on millions of dollars and family sustaining jobs to our neighboring states. […] Wisconsin is an island of prohibition. Prohibition has not worked when it comes to alcohol. It did not work with margarine, and it’s not working when it comes to cannabis.”

If cannabis becomes legal, $165 million in yearly tax revenue for Wisconsin is projected. The District of Columbia and 35 states, including Midwestern states such as Illinois and Michigan, are already reaping the benefits. Since Agard began representing District 16 earlier this year, she’s continued to advocate for her state to join a majority of the country in moving along with the times. Now, Agard is telling people to ask their legislators to sign the legislation, LRB 4361. Call local legislators, she implores.

Months ago, the Senator even penned an op-ed, titled “It’s not too late for Wisconsin to lead on marijuana policy.” Since 2013, she’s called for legalizing marijuana for both medicinal and recreational use. She’s even authored previous legislations in the state, to no avail.

“I want to go back to the core reason that everyone should support full legalization in Wisconsin,” she wrote. “It helps us to live up to the aspirational words of our founding, that we are all created equal and should be treated as such under the laws of our state. We can lead in these efforts. There is no reason for Wisconsin to be the last state to legalize; we simply must have the political courage to do the right thing.”

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers wants to do the right thing, as well. Earlier this year, Evans proposed legalizing marijuana for the 2021-2023 biennial budget. If his plan is approved, $80 million out of the estimated $165 million state revenue would go directly into the “Community Reinvestment Fund.”

he fund would support communicates harmed by outdated laws, which have worsened racial inequality in the state. “Legalizing and taxing marijuana in Wisconsin—just like we do already with alcohol—ensures a controlled market and safe products are available for both recreational and medicinal users,” Evans said, “and can open the door for countless opportunities for us to reinvest in our communities and create a more equitable state. Frankly, red and blue states across the country have moved forward with legalization and there is no reason Wisconsin should be left behind when we know it’s supported by a majority of Wisconsinites.”

Strong Majority Of Wisconsin Voters, Including Republicans, Back Marijuana Legalization, New Poll Finds

A strong majority of Wisconsin voters support legalizing marijuana, according to a new poll. And that includes a majority of Republican voters who now say cannabis prohibition should end, even as GOP leaders have proactively blocked the reform in the legislature.

The survey from Marquette Law School that was released on Wednesday found that support for cannabis reform continues to grow in the state, with 61 percent of voters saying they favor legalization, compared to 31 percent who oppose the policy change.

But one of the most notable findings from the poll is that support for adult-use legalization among Republican voters has officially reached majority status, with 51 percent of those who identify as GOP backing the reform. That’s an eight percentage point increase since the university conducted the first survey in 2013.

Democrats were the most supportive of legalization at 75 percent, followed by independents who back the policy change at 60 percent.

“Support for legalization of marijuana has grown in each partisan group since 2013, with a slim majority of Republicans now supporting legalization,” Marquette Law School said in a press release.

Overall, support for legalization has grown demonstrably since voters were first polled on the issue in 2013. That year, 50 percent of voters said they favor cannabis reform, versus 45 percent who said it should remain illegal.

The latest poll involved interviews with 802 registered Wisconsin voters from February 22-27, with a +/-3.8 percentage point margin of error.

Despite the rising, bipartisan embrace for legalization in Wisconsin, the GOP-controlled legislature has yet to meet the moment, consistently blocking reform from advancing as the Democratic governor and lawmakers from his party have pushed for it. But there are signs of movement, including among Republican lawmakers.

More than a dozen Republican Wisconsin lawmakers announced in January that they were filing a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state, for example.

The Republican-led medical cannabis legislation is also fairly restrictive, as it prohibits smokable marijuana products and doesn’t allow patients to grow cannabis for personal use. Patients could only obtain cannabis preparations in the form of oils, pills, tinctures or topicals.

It does not appear that the measure, sponsored by Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R) and Rep. Patrick Snyder (R), contains equity provisions like expungements that are favored by progressives.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has expressed support for medical cannabis reform, and the lead Senate sponsor said at a press conference in January that Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) is “more than willing” to hold a hearing on the proposal.

“Currently 36 other states, including our neighbors Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota, have passed laws allowing patients with certain medical conditions to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it,” a co-sponsorship memo that Felzkowski and Snyder sent to fellow legislators says. “Medicine is never one-size-fits-all, and it is time for Wisconsin to join the majority of the country in adding another option which may help patients find the relief they need.”

The memo also discusses how voters in multiple cities and counties across Wisconsin have strongly approved local, non-binding ballot referendums expressing support for marijuana reform in recent years.

This isn’t the only cannabis bill that’s up for consideration in the Wisconsin legislature.

In November, a bipartisan pair of legislators introduced a bill to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession. In August, three senators separately filed legislation to legalize cannabis for adult use in the state.

As it stands, marijuana possession is punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail for a first offense. People convicted of a subsequent offense would face a felony charge punishable by a maximum $10,000 fine and up to three and a half years in prison.

Gov. Tony Evers (D) tried to legalize recreational and medical marijuana through his proposed state budget last year, but a GOP-led legislative committee stripped the cannabis language from the legislation. Democrats tried to add the provisions back through an amendment, but Republicans blocked the move.

The governor also recently vetoed a GOP-led bill that would have significantly ramped up criminal penalties for people who use butane or similar fuels to extract marijuana.

Other Republican lawmakers have filed bills to more modestly decriminalize marijuana possession in the state, but none of those proposals advanced during last year’s session.

Evers held a virtual town hall event last year where he discussed his cannabis proposal, emphasizing that polling demonstrates that Wisconsin residents back the policy change.

And in the interim as lawmakers pursue reform, the governor has issued more than 300 pardons during his years in office, primarily to people convicted of non-violent marijuana or other drug offenses.

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