Wisconsin State Senate Committee on Insurance, Licensing and Forestry will hold a public hearing on a medical marijuana bill (Senate Bill 1034) on April 20th. Sponsors say the fact that the hearing is scheduled on the popular 4/20 cannabis holiday is a coincidence.
Senator Melissa Agard (D-Madison) responded to the hearing notice, saying that the Wisconsin residents are ready for cannabis reform, reported Wispolitics.
“It is supported by the majority of the residents of our state, including a majority of Republicans,” Agard said. “While I’m encouraged people will have the ability to come testify at a public hearing, it is disappointing that we had 15 months of session in which we could have rolled up our sleeves and worked in a bipartisan manner on this important and complex policy. Sadly, Republicans are all talk and no action when it comes to legalization efforts in Wisconsin.”
The main problem? The bill won't become law this year because the Legislature has adjourned and it won’t be back until 2023. While there’s no doubt that the Senate committee hearing on the medical marijuana bill is an accomplishment in that it enables supporters to present their arguments about MMJ's benefits as they seek reform in the state, Sen. Agard thinks this is not enough.
She further explained that this is the second session in a row that “legislative Republicans have introduced a late session, politically motivated bill to try and fool the people of Wisconsin into thinking they are genuine about legalization. Having a public hearing after the session has already been gaveled out is a cynical political ploy that gives people false hope about the prospects of this legislation.”
Agard added that in spite of reaching out to her fellow colleagues in relation to cannabis legalization in Wisconsin over nine years, no single Republican has helped her.
“I am disappointed by my Republican colleagues’ constant refusal to do the right thing and listen to Wisconsinites when it comes to the issue of cannabis legalization. My efforts will always work towards full cannabis legalization,” Agard concluded.
Measure’s Sponsor Sen. Felzkowski Still Enthusiastic
On the other hand, the measure’s sponsor, Sen. Mary Felzkowski, (R-Tomahawk) is still enthusiastic, despite having presented the same medical marijuana bill last session, which died without a hearing, writes Madison.
“I want to encourage every Wisconsinite who has an interest in this to come to engage in the process, share your perspective, and learn about the bill,” Felzkowski stated. “Whether you think the bill goes too far, or not far enough, what’s important is that we all come together to have an open, honest and respectful discussion about moving this idea forward.”
Felzkowski also chairs the Senate committee that will be holding the hearing.
The Republican-controlled Legislature already killed several cannabis-related measures this session: bills from Democrats and Republicans proposing the legalization of MMJ, a bill from Democrats to legalize recreational cannabis use and a bipartisan measure proposing the decriminalization of marijuana possession.
Will next week's hearing pave the way for marijuana reform in 2023?
Who knows? One thing is certain: cannabis legalization across the U.S. and the world is slowly but surely gaining momentum.
Recent Developments On Cannabis Reform
The House of Representatives approved the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act, H.R. 3617 on April 1, sending it to Senate. The MORE Act removes cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act, allowing states to legalize cannabis, its production, and sale, free from federal interference.
So far, 37 states have legal medical marijuana programs, while some 18 states have fully legalized recreational cannabis use, including Wisconsin’s neighbors Illinois and Michigan, while the other two neighbors Iowa and Minnesota allow medical cannabis.
So far, industry experts agree that chances are slim that the MORE Act will pass in the Senate, with one of the main problems being garnering Republican support.
According to Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), giving control to states and treating cannabis like alcohol is the only way for marijuana reform to win Republican support. Mace is one of the few members among GOP representatives in favor of removing cannabis from the list of federally controlled substances, nevertheless, she voted against the MORE Act. Why?
“The MORE Act forces a system on South Carolinians and other states they do not want. By comparison, my bill, the States Reform Act, removes the federal government from the equation and allows states to decide for themselves,” Mace explained as reported by The State.
Mace has her own bill - the States Reform Act, and there is also Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act - sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Is it possible that none of these will get the necessary support of enough Senators?
Anything is possible, but one thing that seems to be clearer as time passes is that medical marijuana legalization is more easily acceptable to many politicians.
Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
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