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Politics & Government

WI Republicans Float Proposal to Legalize Medical Marijuana

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Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois have all legalized marijuana in some form, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Both Iowa and Wisconsin have legalized low-THC CBD programs.

Wisconsin is a Midwestern island of marijuana prohibition. Most of its neighboring states have legalized the drug in some form.

It may soon change, as a coalition of Republican lawmakers introduced a bill which would legalize medical marijuana. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 other states, Washington, D.C. and three U.S. territories permit medical marijuana.

Sen. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, one of the bill's lead sponsors, said it is not a partisan issue.

"When you look at the map of states where medical marijuana is legal, you'll see conservative states like Florida and South Dakota, and more liberal states like California and New York offering a compassionate option for those that need relief," Felzkowski pointed out.

The policy would only allow medical marijuana in the form of a liquid, oil, topical, tincture or pill. A similar bill was introduced by Felzkowski during the last legislative session, but it stagnated and failed to pass. The latest version will likely also face long odds, as the Senate on Tuesday passed a measure increasing criminal penalties for extracting resin from cannabis.

Rep. Patrick Snyder, R-Schofield, outlined a tight administrative system for regulating and dispensing medical marijuana, which would be overseen by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) and a Medical Marijuana Regulatory Commission.

"Wisconsin's private sector, under regulation from the commission and DOR, will provide the production, the processing, laboratory testing, transportation and dispensing," Snyder explained.

A 2019 poll from the Marquette University Law School found more than 80% of Wisconsinites supported legalizing medical marijuana, and nearly 60% supported complete legalization.

Gov. Tony Evers included a measure to legalize marijuana in his 2021-2023 biennial state budget, but it was stripped out by Republicans in the Legislature.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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