Wisconsin’s top Republican senator says there’s “potentially” a path to pass a medical marijuana bill in the 2024 session—but it’d have to be strictly limited, likely in a way that would face opposition from Democrats, including the governor who is renewing his call to enact a comprehensive recreational legalization law.
Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) was recently asked about a yet-to-be-seen medical cannabis bill that some of his GOP colleagues have been discussing for months, and he told WTAQ he’s open to a restrictive reform that only permits access to marijuana in pill form.
“I think if it’s done right and if there’s good controls around it so it actually is being prescribed by a doctor probably in like pill form, I think there is a path to potentially getting it done this session,” he said.
There are few known details about the GOP-led proposal, which Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) previously said would be unveiled and potentially enacted this year. But it is expected to be restrictive, consistent with the Senate leader’s preference.
The idea of having doctors prescribe cannabis in pill form could mean running up against the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which recently warned Georgia pharmacists that they’re barred from dispensing THC prescriptions under the state’s new cannabis law.
In any case, Wisconsin Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R), who is also reportedly working on the GOP-led reform legislation, has said the Democratic push for adult-use legalization is complicating efforts to build consensus around medical cannabis.
That’s not how Democrats view the issue, though. Sen. Melissa Agard (D), who is again sponsoring comprehensive legalization legislation this session, has routinely pointed out that the Republican majority could advance their proposal at any point but have so far declined to do so.
Agard, who recently stepped down as minority leader to run for Dane County Executive, told Marijuana Moment on Tuesday that she agrees with the majority leader’s recent remarks in the sense that she’s long maintained that “the devil is in the details with all policy making.”
“However, actions speak louder than words. We have still yet to see actual legislation this session from his party that addresses cannabis legalization in Wisconsin,” the senator, who has urged the public to pressure their representatives to hold a hearing on her reform legislation, said.
Gov. Tony Evers (D) has also continued to push for legalization, writing on Monday that the GOP legislature’s inaction means Wisconsin “is losing out to our neighboring states” that have enacted the reform.
By not legalizing marijuana, Wisconsin is losing out to our neighboring states.
It’s high time we legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in Wisconsin much like we do with alcohol. https://t.co/CQPWpRbTpx
— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) December 19, 2023
“It’s high time we legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in Wisconsin much like we do with alcohol,” said Evers, who recently granted another round of pardons, including dozens issued for people with prior marijuana convictions, last month.
“Nearly 7 out of 10 Wisconsinites support the full legalization of cannabis in our state. I stand with Governor Evers in his call that it is past time to provide not only medicinal cannabis, but recreational cannabis,” Agard said. “Being an island of promotion is making us less safe and less prosperous.”
To that point, neighboring Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota each having legalized the plant in recent years as the reform has stalled in Wisconsin.
The state Department of Revenue released a fiscal estimate of the economic impact of Agard’s legalization bill last month, projecting that the reform would generate nearly $170 million annually in tax revenue.
Also, a legislative analysis requested by the minority leader estimated that Wisconsin residents spent more than $121 million on cannabis in Illinois alone last year, contributing $36 million in tax revenue to the neighboring state.
Despite all that, the conservative legislature has long resisted even incremental reform—stripping marijuana proposals from the governor’s budget requests, for example.
Meanwhile, bipartisan Wisconsin lawmakers said recently they will soon be introducing a bill to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession in the state—an incremental reform that they hope will break the logjam on cannabis policy.
Separately, bipartisan and bicameral Wisconsin lawmakers have also came together to introduce a bill that would create a psilocybin research pilot program in the state.
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.