I first heard of Shae Sortwell when he ran for State Assembly and gave a positive statement about marijuana reform on the campaign trail prior to the 2017 election. His name came up again in the Spring of 2018 as Assembly Bill 236 emerged with the word marijuana in the description. AB 236 reads in part:
DOJ must conduct an identical search on a person who applies for a license to carry a concealed weapon. This bill prohibits DOJ, when conducting a search to determine if a person is prohibited from possessing a firearm, from considering if the person participates in a medical marijuana program that is legal under state or federal law.
This bill also prohibits the Department of Health Services from disclosing to any federal agency the registry status of a person who participates in a medical marijuana registry program that is legal under state or federal law.
This proposed law made sense to me. Field Activists from the district have long shown support for the issue in the district before Rep. Sortwell was elected. Working in the district they reported back to us that Rep. Sortwell indicated a willingness to understand the issue of marijuana reform.
Board members and stakeholders of Northern Wisconsin NORML met in Two Rivers to speak with Rep. Sortwell about cannabis reform and LRB-5095/1: Creation of a Medical Marijuana Program for Wisconsin. Education is the key and Rep. Sortwell took the time to explain what he went through in drafting the legislation and the process we face in getting any legislation passed. We are always available to educate either party on the topic and along the way in our conversation we learned politicians from both sides of the aisle have taken up the mantle of medical use. Frank Boyle (D-Phillips) introduced a bill back in 1997, and Republicans like Greg Underheim, (R-Oshkosh) and Rick Skinrud (R-Mt. Horeb) held hearings on the issue in 2000 and 2001 and were also among the first to introduce medical marijuana bills in Wisconsin in 2003 and 2005.
LRB-5095/1 is currently in being circulated for co-sponsorship until January 3rd, 2020. We know you want to hear more about the bill and marijuana reform from Republicans so Rep. Sortwell forwarded us a Podcast explaining the medical marijuana bill, as well as touches on the subject of future bills on drug testing for THC and expungement (Assembly Bill 33). We look forward to hearing more from him on the subject, in the meantime you can listen to to Rep. Sortwell interview here.
It is always a good time to speak with your elected officials about what concerns you. Is it time you had that cannabis conversation with them? I think so.
I think that it is time we start a medical cannabis program in Wisconsin. I have worked on the issue for almost a decade and I have watched states with medical marijuana program morph, change and evolve the law, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. It is the nature of beast and the devil are in the details when it comes to legislation.
Even if the Republican bill cannot get a public hearing, we need to address the issue in multiple and different ways and keep that conversation going. Ask your elected officials to co-sponsor LRB-5095/1: Creation of a Medical Marijuana Program for Wisconsin today!