The Wisconsin legislature held a hearing Wednesday to discuss a bill put forth earlier this month that would aim to legalize medical marijuana. It was the first time the state legislature heard debate on any form of marijuana related legislation.
The hearing was held on April 20, known to some as 4/20, an annual day to celebrate marijuana. Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R-Tomahawk) said the date selection was a coincidence, and was when most people were available.
However, with the hearing having been scheduled weeks after the legislature terminated its work for the year, the bill will not progress anywhere in the foreseeable future.
The bill is relatively conservative compared to many similar proposals sweeping the nation, namely only legalizing medical use of liquid, oil, pill, topical cream or tincture marijuana products.
Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma), who proposed the bill, cited her motivations for writing the bill after being treated for stage four breast cancer in 2014.
"All of those drugs have severe side effects, some that I realize yet today, which is fine. I mean, I'm alive. But if there was a way that a natural product could have helped me with that?" Felzkowski said at the hearing. “When you have a prescription drug that has a horrific side effect then you're taking a drug to counteract the side effect ... It was unreal. I mean, it's almost like I went through six months of a fog."
In 2021, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) stated that if the federal government delists marijuana and it goes through FDA testing, then the state should treat it like other medicinal drugs. Without the support of LeMahieu, the bill will likely struggle in the legislature.
“If there’s advantages to it, if it helps out people, I have no problem with it as long as a doctor is prescribing it," he said. "But I think that discussion needs to be done at the federal level and not have some rogue state doing it without actual science behind it.”
Gov. Tony Evers has proposed multiple times to either decriminalize or legalize marijuana use through state budget proposals, but Republicans have shot down those attempts. Sen Melissa Agard (D-Madison) has also made many attempts to legalize marijuana over the years, to no avail.
“We cannot settle for half-baked, insufficient legislation that is nothing more than a political ploy to give folks false hope on the prospects of cannabis legalization here in Wisconsin,” Agard said in a statement Wednesday. “We must put our efforts behind full cannabis legalization.”
According to Marquette University Law School polling, 80% of Wisconsinites supported the legalization of marijuna in 2019.
Ian Wilder is a current features writer and former state politics reporter for The Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.