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WI GOP, Dem Lawmakers Split on Path to Marijuana Legalization

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Thursday, April 21, 2022   

Yesterday, April 20, was an unofficial holiday for marijuana enthusiasts across the country, and here in Wisconsin, lawmakers marked the day by weighing the future of pot in the Badger State.

In a Senate committee hearing, legislators considered a Republican-authored bill which would legalize medical marijuana, with tight controls and regulation from state agencies and doctors.

Sen. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, noted both Republican and Democrat-controlled states have passed similar bills.

"It's in complete red states, it's in complete blue states, it's in purple states; and I don't think that medical marijuana is a partisan issue," Felzkowski asserted. "This is about a drug, it's not an FDA-approved drug, but it's a drug under a doctor's care that can help people with debilitating diseases."

Democrats have criticized Felzkowski's bill for being too restrictive, as the measure does not allow folks to smoke marijuana and only permits medical pot for a limited range of illnesses, although Felzkowski countered the list is open to additions.

Democrats have tried and failed for years to pass recreational marijuana bills through the GOP-controlled Legislature. Lawmakers are not scheduled to reconvene and vote on any bills until next year.

The measure is opposed by the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association and the Wisconsin Medical Society, and supported by the Business Education Fund and the Wisconsin Hemp Farmers and Manufacturers Association.

Sen. Melissa Agard, D-Madison, said the bill is "half-baked" and doesn't go far enough.

"Senate Bill 1034 doesn't address our racial disparities," Agard contended. "And it doesn't provide a path for expungements and bars people who have been previously harmed by these controlled substances and the prohibition of cannabis from contributing to this important industry."

A recent Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin voters found 61% of respondents support legalizing marijuana. And 51% of Republican respondents support full legalization, up 10% from 2019. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 37 states, four U.S. territories and Washington, D.C. permit medical cannabis.


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