MADISON, Wis. — A group of lawmakers launched another push Friday to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin, introducing a bill that would allow patients to use the drug if they register with the state and create a licensing system for growers.
Thirty-three states, including neighboring Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois, have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and 11, including Illinois, have legalized it for recreational purposes.
The Wisconsin bill’s authors, Senators Jon Erpenbach and Patrick Testin and Representative Chris Taylor, said in a joint statement that the time has come to lift the state’s restrictions. Erpenbach and Taylor are Democrats. Testin is a Republican.
“Doctors and patients, not government, should decide if cannabis is the right treatment,” Testin said.
Democrats have tried to get some form of marijuana legalization passed in every legislative session for the past decade. Despite Testin’s support, the latest bill faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he’s been open to legalizing medical marijuana for years and wants to work on the issue this fall. But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has said he doesn’t support it. Democratic Governor Tony Evers proposed legalizing medical marijuana in the state budget but Republicans removed the provisions from the final spending plan.
Fitzgerald’s spokesman, Alec Zimmerman, had no immediate comment on the bill. But Fitzgerald’s position is unlikely to change; he’s running for Congress next year in a traditionally conservative southeastern Wisconsin district and signaling support for marijuana could motivate potential primary challengers.
Under the bill, patients looking to use marijuana for medical purposes would have to join a new state Department of Health Services registry. To qualify for the registry, a person would have to be suffering from any of a wide range of ailments, including cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe pain, and chronic disease. A doctor would have to diagnose the ailment and explain the potential risks and benefits of medical marijuana to the registrant before he or she could join the list.
Applicants would have to pay a $250 registration fee and an annual $250 fee. The registry would be sealed to the public. People convicted of a violent felony wouldn’t be allowed to join it.
The bill also would set up a licensing system for medical marijuana growers through the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. A grower would be defined as someone who grows more than a dozen marijuana plants. Applicants would have to pay a $250 initial fee and a $5,000 annual fee. Licensees would be prohibited from growing marijuana for personal or family use.
Evers tweeted Friday that he supports the bill, pointing to a Marquette University Law School poll from April that found that 83 percent of respondents supported legalizing medical marijuana.
“It’s time for Wisconsin to do the right thing and allow doctors to prescribe medication that’s best (for) their patient and their families,” Evers wrote.