Earlier today, state lawmakers heard from constituents on their opinions of medical cannabis. 37 other states already have medical or recreational weed, with Mississippi the latest to join in.
State Senator Mary Feltzkowski, a Republican from Irma, is a co-author of the limited medical cannabis bill. Under the bill patients could get a recommendation from the doctor for a 30 day supply of cannabis. Qualifying conditions include Crohn’s disease, seizure disorders, cancer, PTSD, and HIV AIDS. “Medical marijuana is not going to help everyone, but for those people that it does help, it helps them greatly, and it should not be denied to them,” she says. “For physicians, it’s one more tool in the toolbox. You know, I’ve always been a lot around medical freedom where people have a right to make those decisions for themselves on what is being ingested into their body, and what they can utilize. And I just don’t see that it’s government’s role to stand between me or you, and a natural product with less side effects than some of the prescription drugs that we had.”
As the bill is currently written, no smokable weed would be allowed–that means no flower, and no vapes. Senator Feltzkowski points to the concern of second-hand smoke as the reason for the exclusion.
Today’s hearing was monumental. Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) says in the two decades she’s been in office this is only the second hearing on the issue. Taylor ultimately supports full legalization, but understands compromise. “When you look at incarceration rates for the issue and how things are treated, not only in the police departments, but in the District Attorney’s offices, it is significantly different when you have skin that looks like this versus skin that looks like this,” she explains. “So to that point, I’m saddened by the legislation, because I want more. But I’ve been in this building for two decades. So I understand that sometimes, you make one move so that you can at least move to the door.”
However, not all lawmakers are supportive of the bill. Senate Melissa Agard (D-Madison) has long championed full cannabis legalization in Wisconsin. She does not support Felzkowski’s bill as it is written. “It is disappointing to me that we have had as legislators 15 months of this session alone, as well as many years before this, where we could have been rolling up our sleeves and working in a bipartisan manner,” she says, “to come up with real pragmatic solutions that will save the lives of people across the state of Wisconsin. I know that this is a complex policy, but it’s also a vitally important conversation for us to be having. And we need to be putting aside the letters besides our names. And doing this earnestly in the best interests of everyone in our state. There’s too much on the table.”
The Wisconsin Medical Society has also voiced their opposition to the bill stating that there is no proven medical uses for cannabis because it is federally recognized as a schedule one drug.
Alan Robinson, owner of Herbal Aspect testified to the anecdotal medical benefits of CBD he has witnessed from customers. CBD is a chemical found in marijuana, but does not include THC, the ingredient attributed to a cannabis high. “There are over 113 cannabinoid constituents in the cannabis plant,” he explains. “There’s so much about the cannabis plant that we don’t know and how these cannabinoids interact with either our endocannabinoid system or themselves.”
Representative Rachel Cabral-Guevara (R-Appleton) is also a nurse practitioner and she has largely seen patients use cannabis to manage pain and anxiety. “If we can utilize this medication to alleviate some of the other, you know, abuse issues that I’ve seen without the state here and not go within the world of alcohol and narcotics. I’m going to continue to be in full support of this bill,” she says.
The bill is now headed back to Felzkowski’s desk for revisions and to be reintroduced next year in January–the next time the legislation is in session.
A Marquette Law School poll from 2019 found 83 percent of Wisconsinites support medical marijuana. And a Marquette Law School poll from February of this year finds that 61 percent of Wisconsinites are in support of marijuana legalization in general. Each state neighboring Wisconsin has legalized marijuana to some degree.
photo by Kattia Jimenez