Yesterday, newly elected and returning lawmakers convened for the first day of Wisconsin's new legislative session. Since the legislature adjourned last year, voters in Utah, Oklahoma, and Missouri enacted medical cannabis laws, bringing the number of medical cannabis states to 32.
And, on Election Day, more than a million Wisconsinites cast non-binding votes in support of medical marijuana or adult-use programs. In all 11 counties and two cities — both red and blue — where it was on the ballot, medical cannabis measures passed overwhelmingly. Support ranged from 67% to 89%.
Despite that massive show of support, Wisconsin patients either needlessly suffer or risk arrest to find relief from cannabis. Let your lawmakers know you want them to change that this year.
Wisconsin's new governor, Tony Evers (D), supports medical cannabis, but he can only sign a bill if one makes it to his desk. Wisconsin doesn't have a binding, statewide ballot initiative process. As was the case in Illinois and Minnesota, the only way to enact a medical cannabis law in the state is through the legislature.
So please, send a quick note to your elected officials, and share this message with other compassionate Wisconsinites.
Local voters approve 13 medical marijuana and seven legalization measures; ask legislators to listen.
Great news! On Election Day, around a million Wisconsin voters approved advisory questions on their ballots calling for more humane marijuana laws.
More than half of the state’s population saw cannabis-related measures on their ballots, and every single one of the measures passed. Medical cannabis questions received between 67% and 89% in the 11 counties and two cities where they appeared. Adult-use questions garnered between 60% and 76% of the vote.
As the Wisconsin State-Journal’s analysis shows, the measures easily passed in jurisdictions that voted for the Republican and the Democrat for the gubernatorial race.
Congratulations to all the advocates and voters who were involved!
In other encouraging news, voters elected a new governor — Tony Evers — who supports medical marijuana and would like to put the question of legalization to voters. (In Wisconsin, voters can’t place questions on the statewide ballot themselves; only state lawmakers can refer questions to them.)
Meanwhile, in neighboring Michigan, voters overwhelmingly approved legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults 21 and older.
Despite all this encouraging news, however, challenges remain. Popular support for medical marijuana has been strong for many years, but thus far Wisconsin’s lawmakers have refused to act.
Let your state legislators know you want the legislature to finally listen to voters on medical cannabis when they convene for the 2019 legislative session. It’s past time Wisconsin roll back its cruel and wasteful war on marijuana.
Wisconsin’s General Election Day is less than two weeks away! If you are not yet registered to vote, you can register at your polling location on Election Day, Tuesday, November 6.
Almost three million voters will have the opportunity to directly weigh in on marijuana policies in Wisconsin through ballot measures on Election Day. Results could build significant momentum for statewide marijuana policy reform. Check out the confirmed list of questions by jurisdiction here.
In addition, here’s a look at where gubernatorial candidates stand on marijuana policy: Tony Evers (D) supports medical marijuana, and letting voters decide on legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults’ use, while Gov. Scott Walker (R) remains opposed to both.
For more information on voting, including where to cast your ballot, early voting, and voter registration, check out the state’s website here. You can find more information on Wisconsin’s current marijuana policies here.
Please forward this message to your network, and be sure to get out and vote!
Exciting news! This November, ballot measures in 15 counties and two cities will allow voters to weigh in on marijuana policies in Wisconsin. The results could serve as a springboard for reform. The non-binding, advisory questions vary by jurisdiction — with some concerning medical cannabis and some focusing on legalizing marijuana for adults’ use. Find the confirmed list of questions by jurisdiction here.
Voters will consider ballot measures in the cities of Racine and Waukesha, as well as the following counties: Brown, Clark, Dane, Eau Claire, Forest, Kenosha, La Crosse, Langlade, Marathon, Marquette, Milwaukee, Portage, Racine, Rock, and Sauk.
If you’re a Wisconsin resident, please spread the word, and voice your support Tuesday, November 6!
Around the country, state lawmakers are gearing up for the new legislative sessions, and some are already making marijuana policy reform a top priority.
In Wisconsin, Rep. Melissa Sargent plans to reintroduce legislation that would end Wisconsin’s criminalization of adult marijuana consumers in exchange for taxing and regulating it like alcohol. Her proposal would also permit seriously ill Wisconsinites — both adults and minors — to access medical marijuana.
As Pennsylvania works to implement its new medical marijuana program, lawmakers plan to reintroduce legislation that would stop jailing marijuana consumers and instead impose a civil fine. Currently, an individual arrested for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana can still be sentenced to as much as 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Last year, Rep. Ed Gainey introduced HB 2706, a bill that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana. He is expected to introduce similar legislation this year.
In Rhode Island, advocates will once again be pushing legislators to end marijuana prohibition after voters in neighboring Massachusetts passed an initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in November.
Last month, Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Faison (R) and Sen. Steve Dickerson (R) announced that they are introducing a medical marijuana bill to bring meaningful access to many patients in Tennessee and establish 150 dispensaries throughout the state.
Texas Senator José Menéndez (D-San Antonio) pre-filed SB 269, a comprehensive medical cannabis bill, in early December. If passed, this legislation will bring safe and legal access to Texas patients with debilitating medical conditions like cancer, PTSD, chronic pain, and Crohn’s disease, among others. Advocates expect another bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana to be introduced soon.
The year is still early, and there will likely be many more marijuana policy reform bills introduced in the coming weeks. If you would like to find out what is happening in your state, please click here. MPP will continue to follow marijuana-related legislation in all 50 states and DC as it develops.
Wisconsin will stop punishing possession of a modest amount of marijuana if state Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee) and state Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) have anything to say about it. Along with 14 of their colleagues, they have introduced legislation that would remove all penalties for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana.
If you are a Wisconsin resident, please email your lawmakers in Madison and ask them to support this modest reform today!
Possessing one ounce or less of marijuana in Wisconsin is currently classified as a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000. A subsequent possession charge could result in a felony conviction for simply having a small amount of a substance that is safer than alcohol. AB 246/SB 167 would repeal these draconian penalties that carry with them a host of collateral consequences associated with having a criminal record.
In an interview last week, Madison, Wisconsin Police Chief Mike Koval called marijuana prohibition a failure and advocated regulating and taxing the substance in order to pay for treatment programs that focus on more dangerous drugs.
The comments came during an interview with the State Journal Wednesday about data showing African Americans in Madison were arrested or cited for marijuana offenses at about 12 times the rate of whites in the city.
Koval called efforts to enforce laws against marijuana an “abject failure” and said the same about the broader war on drugs. “We’ve done such an abysmal job using marijuana as a centerpiece of drug enforcement, that it’s time to reorder and triage the necessities of what’s more important now,” Koval said.
Referring to the states of Washington and Colorado, which have legalized the drug for recreational use and sale at state-regulated stores, he said it was time for Wisconsin to consider doing the same.
Under current Wisconsin law, possession of any amount of marijuana can earn you six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A subsequent offense is a felony punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and three and a half years in prison.
Chief Koval is just one example of a growing movement of law enforcement professionals who are breaking rank with many of their colleagues and calling for an end to the war on marijuana users.
Tragically, Lydia Schaeffer (aged 7) passed away on Mother’s Day from a rare genetic disorder called Kleefstra syndrome, which causes terrible seizures and other complications. Her plight inspired lawmakers in Wisconsin to legalize a marijuana extract to treat her condition, despite their opposition to a broader medical marijuana reform.
Sally Schaeffer, Lydia’s mother, lobbied the state legislature to legalize the cannabidiol (CBD) extract from the marijuana stain known as Charlotte’s Web for use on children with seizure disorders. Even though lawmakers moved to pass the limited CBD-only bill in record time, determining the implications of the law stalled it from going into effect. Additionally, CBD-only bills leave behind 98% of the patients who can benefit from medical marijuana, so Wisconsin still has a long way to go before patients have legal access to this much-needed medicine.
In Lydia's honor, Sally plans to continue spreading the word on CBD oil. She said she was contacted by Sen. Robert Wirch's office this week and told they would try to have the bill she championed called Lydia's Law. Wirch’s sympathy toward the Schaeffer family is welcomed, but his and other politicians’ compassion for the vast majority of other patients in need is currently lacking.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has signed into law a bill, A.B. 726, which exempts a very limited class of individuals from criminal penalties for the use and possession of cannabidiol (a component of marijuana) “in a form without a psychoactive effect.” While this is an improvement to current law, it leaves the vast majority of medical marijuana patients without legal protections for using and possessing the medicine their doctors think is best for them.
The law allows individuals with seizure disorders to possess non-psychoactive cannabidiol if they have their physician’s written approval. However, it doesn’t give patients a realistic way to obtain their medicine in Wisconsin.
Individuals with the written documentation would have to travel to one of the few medical marijuana states that allow non-residents to obtain cannabis from their dispensaries. They would then have to bring cannabidiol back to Wisconsin, possibly crossing through other states where it is illegal. With all these limitations, this law may be unworkable even for the limited population it’s meant to help. For more information, please see our summary of the law.
Wisconsin took a small step forward this year, but the law is so incomplete that MPP will not be counting it as a “medical marijuana state.”
Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent (D – Madison) is asking her colleagues to sign on to her bill to replace Wisconsin’s marijuana prohibition with a system that regulates marijuana for adults’ use. If you are a Wisconsin resident, email your state representative and senator today and ask them to sign on as co-sponsors!
Rep. Sargent’s proposal is similar to the measures voters in Colorado and Washington overwhelmingly approved of in November 2012. The bill would allow individuals 21 and older to possess limited amounts of marijuana. It would also create a system of regulated marijuana production and retail sales. This sensible approach to marijuana would let law enforcement focus on more serious crimes. It would also create thousands of new, legitimate jobs and raise millions of dollars in revenue for the state each year.