Newly sworn-in Democratic Governor Tony Evers announced Monday that he is taking Wisconsin cannabis policy reform into his own hands by attaching proposals to his spending budget this year. With these proposals, Gov. Evers aims to legalize medical cannabis, decriminalize recreational possession and use, and expunge qualifying arrest records.
“Our budget will decriminalize possession of marijuana in amounts of 25 grams or less, and we’ll also be creating a path for expungement for these crimes for those who’ve completed their sentence or probation,” wrote Evers on Twitter.
According to the statement, “Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate in the country for Black men,” and 75 to 85 percent of all inmates are being held for drug-related crimes. The racial disparity in marijuana arrests has long been noted throughout the United States and Evers wants to change it in the Badger State. “The bottom line is that we are spending too much money prosecuting and incarcerating people — and often persons of color — for non-violent crimes related to possessing small amounts of marijuana,” wrote Evers.
Medical Cannabis in Wisconsin
Legalizing cannabis for a medicinal purpose in Wisconsin is inspired by Evers’ own experience with a debilitating disease. “As a cancer survivor, I know the side effects of a major illness can make everyday tasks a challenge. People shouldn’t be treated as criminals for accessing a desperately-needed medication that can alleviate their suffering,” Gov. Evers said. “Wisconsinites overwhelmingly agree that this is a critically important issue. But it’s not just about access to health care, it’s about connecting the dots between racial disparities and economic inequity.”
Currently, only nonpsychoactive CBD oil is legal in Wisconsin, and it is unclear whether the mostly Republican state Legislature will support Gov. Evers’ new proposals. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) is against the legalization of medical marijuana, but the Republican leaders of the State Assembly have shown that they may be open to legalizing the plant for medical use.
The full details of the medical marijuana policy outlined by Evers will not be released until February 28. In the statement released Monday, the governor’s office did acknowledge that the proposal establishes that physicians would be able to recommend medical cannabis to patients to alleviate symptoms caused by debilitating conditions like cancer, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, severe nausea, and seizures. Registered, card-holding patients would also be permitted to cultivate up to 12 mature plants at home.
The proposal also eliminates the requirement under the current law that a patient using CBD oil must have a recommendation from a physician in order to avoid prosecution.
Decriminalization, Not Legalization
While the proposal decriminalizing 25 grams or less of marijuana for recreational purposes faces a more difficult challenge in the Legislature, it has support from the Wisconsin voters. According to a recent poll from Marquette University Law School, 59 percent of Wisconsinites support legalizing marijuana. Some cities, like Madison, have already decriminalized personal cannabis possession.
Under Gov. Evers’ proposal, the recreational possession, manufacturing, and distribution of 25 grams or fewer of marijuana would be decriminalized state-wide. It does not establish a framework for retail dispensaries, but any person who sells the 25 grams or fewer at one time would be doing so within the confines of the law.
Driving a motor vehicle under the influence and consuming in public places or on school property would remain illegal and punishable by law.
“Too many people, often persons of color, spend time in our criminal justice system just for possessing small amounts of marijuana. That doesn’t make our communities stronger or safer,” Evers said. “This shouldn’t be a Republican issue or Democratic issue, and I look forward to working on both sides of the aisle to pass this proposal in my budget.”
With the gubernatorial wins of Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan, J. B. Pritzker in Illinois, Tim Walz in Minnesota and Tony Evers in Wisconsin, the stage seems to be set for a Midwestern green revolution. Michigan became the first state in the region to legalize for adult use, but the overall political landscape bodes well for cannabis reform efforts with the new governors-elect taking their seats soon.
Illinois and Minnesota already have exiting medical cannabis systems in place. Pritzker said on Wednesday that he thinks his state should consider adult-use legalization “right away,” noting the economic benefits. A system designed to expunge the criminal records of individuals who’ve been convicted of cannabis-related offenses is also on the table for Illinois, he said.
Similarly, Whitmer said that Michigan voters have made clear that “no one should bear a lifelong record” for an offense that has since been legalized. She will be “looking into” policies to ameliorate that problem.
“A green Midwest would say [to the federal government] what we’re seeing in so many other arenas,” Jolene Forman, a staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment. “Marijuana is not an exclusively a leftist or libertarian issue. It’s really an issue that the American public wants to see.”
Historically, the Midwest hasn’t been regarded as a region especially friendly toward progressive cannabis policies. But that’s rapidly changing, and the results of the midterm election could signal a paradigm shift that’s been a long time coming, Forman said.
For example, Walz, in Minnesota, said he wants to “replace the current failed policy with one that creates tax revenue, grows jobs, builds opportunities for Minnesotans, protects Minnesota kids, and trusts adults to make personal decisions based on their personal freedoms.”
In Wisconsin, voters in 16 counties and two cities embraced various marijuana reform proposals in the form of non-binding advisory questions on Tuesday. Outgoing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walter (R) opposed full legalization and called marijuana a “gateway drug” as recently as May, but governor-elect Evers has said he wants to put a legalization question on the statewide ballot for voters to weigh in on and would support ending prohibition if they approved it. In the meantime he wants to enact decriminalization and legalize medical cannabis.
Voters in 16 counties across Wisconsin have signaled strong support for marijuana reform, voting in the affirmative on advisory questions asking whether voters approve of various legalization and decriminalization policies.
The advisory questions are non-binding, meaning that they won’t translate into actual policy changes. Rather, the purpose of the questions is to gauge public sentiment, which could help inform future legislation—as seemed to be in the case when Massachusetts went through a similar process in 2014.
PASSED—Brown County: Should cannabis be legalized in Wisconsin for medicinal purposes, and regulated in the same manner as other prescription drugs?
PASSED—Clark County: Should the State of Wisconsin legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes and regulate its use in the same manner as other prescription drugs?
PASSED—Dane County: Should marijuana be legalized, taxed and regulated in the same manner as alcohol for adults 21 years of age or older?
PASSED—Eau Claire County: Should cannabis:
(a) Be legal for adult, 21years of age and older, recreational or medical use, taxed and regulated like alcohol, with the proceeds from the taxes used for education, healthcare, and infrastructure in Wisconsin?
(b) Be legal for medical purposes only and available only by prescription through a medical dispensary?
(c) Remain a criminally illegal drug as provided under current law?
PASSED—Forest County: Should the State of Wisconsin allow individuals with debilitating medical conditions to use and safely access marijuana for medical purposes, if those individuals have a written recommendation from a licensed Wisconsin physician?
PASSED—Kenosha County: Should the State of Wisconsin allow individuals with debilitating medical conditions to use and safely access marijuana for medical purposes, if those individuals have a written recommendation from a licensed Wisconsin physician?
PASSED—La Crosse County: Should the State of Wisconsin legalize the use of marijuana by adults 21 years or older, to be taxed and regulated in the same manner that alcohol is regulated in the State of Wisconsin, with proceeds from taxes used for education, healthcare, and infrastructure?
PASSED—Langlade County: Should the State of Wisconsin allow individuals with debilitating medical conditions to use and safely access marijuana for medical purposes, if those individuals have a written recommendation from a licensed Wisconsin physician?
PASSED—Lincoln County: Should the State of Wisconsin allow individuals with debilitating medical conditions to use and safely access marijuana for medical purposes, if those individuals have a written recommendation from a licensed Wisconsin physician?
PASSED—Marathon County: Should the State of Wisconsin allow individuals with debilitating medical conditions to use and safely access marijuana for medical purposes, if those individuals have a written recommendation from a licensed Wisconsin physician?
PASSED—Marquette County: Resolved, that “We the People” of Marquette County, Wisconsin support the right of its citizens to acquire, possess and use medical cannabis upon the recommendation of a licensed physician, and;
Be It Further Resolved, that we strongly support a statewide referendum Wisconsin to join the thirty-two (32) states that have already approved the use of medical cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain, several debilitating diseases and disabling symptoms.
PASSED—Milwaukee County: Do you favor allowing adults 21 years of age and older to engage in the personal use of marijuana, while also regulating commercial marijuana-related activities, and imposing a tax on the sale of marijuana?
PASSED—Portage County: Should the State of Wisconsin allow individuals with debilitating medical conditions to use and safely access marijuana for medical [treatment] purposes, if those individuals have a written [treatment] recommendation from a licensed Wisconsin physician?
PASSED—Racine County: Question No. 1: “Should marijuana be legalized for medicinal use?
Question No. 2: Should marijuana be legalized, taxed, and regulated in the same manner as alcohol for adults 21 years of age or older?
Question No. 3: Should proceeds from marijuana taxes be used to fund education, health care, and infrastructure?”
PASSED—Rock County: Should cannabis be legalized for adult use, taxed and regulated like alcohol, with the proceeds from the Taxes used for education, healthcare, and infrastructure?
PASSED—Sauk County: Should the state of Wisconsin legalize medical marijuana so that people with debilitating medical conditions may access medical marijuana if they have a prescription from a licenses Wisconsin physician?
Fun fact: Voters in Racine, Wisconsin, will see six separate marijuana measures on their ballots today because the city and county each approved three non-binding cannabis advisory questions. Waukesha, Wisconsin, is another city where a cannabis advisory question was approved.
PASSED—Racine: Should cannabis be legalized for adult recreational use in Wisconsin?
Should cannabis be legalized for medical use in Wisconsin?
Should cannabis sales be taxed and the revenue from such taxes be used for public education, health care, and infrastructure in Wisconsin?
Should cannabis be decriminalize in the State of Wisconsin?
PASSED—Waukesha: Should cannabis be legalized in Wisconsin for medicinal purposes, and regulated in the same manner as other prescription drugs
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect the latest results from Tuesday’s election.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
The top Republican in the U.S. House has issued a surprise endorsement of a key marijuana ingredient’s medical benefits as well as the uses of industrial hemp.
“It has proven to work,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said of cannabidiol (CBD) on Tuesday, specifying that it “helps reduce seizures.”
“We do this in Wisconsin,” he said, referring to his home state’s limited CBD law. “That that oil, I think works well.”
The speaker, who is not running for reelection and is retiring from Congress early next year, shared that his own mother-in-law used a synthetic form of cannabinoids, presumably the THC pill Marinol, while dying from melanoma and ovarian cancer.
“That’s off the record,” he said jokingly, referencing TV cameras at the well-attended Kentucky rally where he was appearing in support of Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), who is locked in a tight reelection race.
Ryan, responding to a medical marijuana question from a woman whose husband passed away, also proactively took the opportunity to speak up in support of industrial hemp.
“And by the way, there’s a lot of industrial uses for hemp that I understand from talking to Mitch McConnell is a big deal to Kentucky agriculture,” he said. “And we’re all in favor of that as well.”
Ryan’s endorsement for hemp comes at a key time. Congressional leaders are currently negotiating differences in the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill. The Senate proposal contains language championed by McConnell, the GOP majority leader, that would legalize hemp. The House bill has no such provisions.
If the top Republican in either chamber is now vocally in support of ending the prohibition on marijuana’s non-intoxicating cousin, it seems more and more likely that the House will accept the Senate’s hemp language.
That said, don’t count the outgoing speaker as a die-hard marijuana supporter, even when it comes to medical uses.
“Theres no THC in that oil,” he said, even though most CBD preparations do have small amounts of the intoxicating cannabis compound. “That is not medical marijuana.”
In response to the medical marijuana question, Ryan also touted passage this year of the Right to Try Act—which appears to allow certain seriously ill people to use marijuana and other currently illegal drugs such as psilocybin and MDMA, though he did not mention those implications directly.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:
Campaigns supporting and opposing marijuana ballot measures are filling up airwaves and social media feeds with political advertisements in the run-up to the midterm elections.
From Utah to Michigan, battles to convince the electorate via video advertisements to vote one way or the other on cannabis-related initiatives are heating up.
Here’s a roundup of ads you can find on TV and the internet as competing camps work to get out the vote in the four states with recreational or medical legalization up for consideration on Election Day.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol also produced a series of ads focusing on the safeguards that a regulated cannabis system creates, the economic benefits of legalization and the positive impact of a legal marijuana marketplace on criminal justice.
But in this ad, anti-legalization Healthy and Productive Michigan president Scott Greenlee falsely conflates active impairment from marijuana with the presence of cannabis metabolites in drug tests.
The group also created an ad fear-mongering about the risks that the legalization of cannabis edibles poses to young people.
Dr. Brad Bradshaw, the main supporter of Missouri’s Amendment 3, released a video touting his credentials and arguing that a vote “yes” means supporting cancer research. (The video is not embeddable, but you can view it here).
A campaign committee in support for Amendment 3 also released several attack ads on Amendment 2, including the fact that it allows patients to cultivate their own medicine at home. (These videos are also not embeddable. You can view them here).
“Personal freedom and criminal justice reform are at the heart of Measure 3,” a pro-legalization ad states. “On November 6, let’s exercise our rights and vote ‘yes’ to legalize recreational marijuana.”
Drug Safe Utah, an anti-legalization committee, released an ad indicating that the group was sympathetic to efforts to legalize cannabis for medical use—but that the legalization proposal at hand goes “too far.” (The video is not embeddable, but you can view it here.)
It’s likely that pro- and anti-legalization camps in Utah would have funded more ads ahead of Election Day—but competing campaigns effectively reached a ceasefire in light of a proposed legislative compromise deal that lawmakers are expected to consider soon after November 6, regardless of whether the ballot measure is approved by voters.
Voters in 16 counties and two cities in Wisconsin will have the chance to voice their opinion on marijuana legalization in November—in the form of non-binding advisory questions that could help inform future legislation. The pro-reform advocacy group Forever Wisconsin released an ad recently that delivers a short and sweet message to prospective voters: