A new piece of legislation for the 2019-2020 Wisconsin cycle includes a bipartisan medical cannabis (marijuana) attempt authored by Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D- West Point), Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) and Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison).
Many expected the legislation to head directly to The Senate Health Committee chaired by author of the bill, Senator Testin. Senate bill number, SB507 and was referred to the senate committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection instead. The referral to a committee other than the Senate Health committee, where previous bills were assigned, marks a departure from normal procedures and even standard operating procedures within the Republican party on important issues like medical marijuana.
One reason maybe to be to prevent SB507 from receiving a public hearing and/or advancing in the Senate Committee. This was something that had it been assigned to senate health chaired by Testin would most likely have happened, but would not have guaranteed passage of the legislation by any means. The senate committee overseeing the fate of medical marijuana for Wisconsin is now in Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection, is chaired by a marijuana hater named Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville). Senator Stroebel has long opposed any marijuana reform.
A recap shows field activists in Northern Wisconsin and throughout the state had an impact over the past years as 13 senators, 12 Democrats along with Sen. Testin have sponsored the legislation. The 12 Democrats represent all but 2 members of the 14 member (of 33 senators) Democratic caucus. The two Dems who did not cosponsor are from opposite ends of the state, Sen. Bob Wirch (D-Somers) and Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Mason). This is the first medical cannabis legislation Sen. Risser has signed onto since 1979. Clearly we need to concentrate in Republican districts.
In the assembly two additional Republican legislators have sponsored this bill bringing the total to 24 representatives. Field Activists have been reporting that first time cosponsors, Reps. Todd Novak, (R-Dodgeville) and Joel Kitchens, (R-Sturgeon Bay) have been supportive of medical cannabis and it is great to see their work have impact. This is the first time Republicans have signed their name to a bill in nearly two decades.
What was disheartening is that more Republicans did not come forward to co sponsor. The 2018 referendums overwhelmingly showed Wisconsin voters support medical marijuana. A few Republicans who supported marijuana reform during their individual campaigns in 2018 should also have been on this list and may not be because Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) may choose to write her own medical marijuana bill. I had a chance to speak with Rep. Felzkowski in the fall of 2018 regarding a potential medical marijuana program for Wisconsin. Field Activists are also working with their Republican Assembly Representatives who are expressing support. We will keep you informed and posted as we can. Thanks for the support. Join or donate today!