Assembly Democrats, who added two seats in the Milwaukee suburbs in the November 2020 general election, again elected Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, to lead their caucus in the next term. Hintz was first elected as minority leader in 2017 to succeed Peter Barca, who is now Gov. Tony Evers’ revenue secretary.
Rep Hintz has been one of the most outspoken Democratic Assembly Leaders in Wisconsin history by supporting and calling for marijuana reform again and again. He has reached out to me a few times over the years. I always enjoy our conversations and learn something from him each time. With a supporting Governor Evers and what seems to be a good margin of support for medical marijuana reform in the Assembly and Senate set for 2021-22, all eyes will be on the leadership of both parties to finally get something on the floor to a vote.
Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, D-Middleton, will again serve as assistant minority leader. Elected in 2012, the 2016 session Hesselbein only co-sponsored Industrial Hemp and CBD. This Middleton area Democrat ran unopposed as an incumbent in 2018 and did co-sponsoring medical marijuana with home grows and smoking products, along with decriminalization for the 2019-2020.
Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, was re-elected as Democratic caucus chairperson. Rep. Spreitzer co-sponsored Adult Use, Grow Your Own/Smoking Medical Marijuana and Decriminalization.
Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, was elected Democratic caucus vice chairperson to succeed Rep. Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska. This Madison area Democrat ran unopposed as an incumbent in 2018 and ended up co-sponsoring medical marijuana with home grows and smoking products, along with both versions for decriminalization for the 2019-2020 session.
Rep. Beth Meyers, D-Bayfield, was re-elected as minority caucus secretary. In 2018 the City of Superior decriminalized small amounts of marijuana and the City of Ashland approved measures about declaring a resolution to support both medical and recreational cannabis. Democrat Beth Meyers from Bayfield did not sponsor any legislation on marijuana reform in 2019-2020.
Rep. Kalan Haywood, D-Milwaukee, one of the youngest people ever to serve in the Legislature, was selected as minority sergeant-at-arms. This first year assembly representative from Milwaukee did not sponsor any legislation on marijuana reform in 2019-2020. His candidate statements addressing marijuana reform and his continued public support in the news for reform of marijuana laws is appreciated.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate, who lost two seats in the November 2020 elections and will come into the next session controlling just 12 of 33 seats, re-elected Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Mason, as minority leader. In 2018 the City of Superior decriminalized small amounts of marijuana and the City of Ashland approved measures about declaring a resolution to support both medical and recreational cannabis. The then Democrat Assistant Senate Minority Leader did not sponsor any legislation on marijuana reform in 2019-2020.
In addition to Bewley as the Democratic Senate leader, Sen. Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville) will continue to serve as assistant minority leader, fending off a challenge from Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee). Senator Ringhand (D-Evansville) has co-sponsored the Grow Your Own/Smoking Medical Marijuana Bipartisan bill, but has remained “undecided” about recreational marijuana and has not co-sponsor any decriminalization measures this session.
The roles of caucus chair will be filled by Sen. Jeff Smith. Senator Smith sponsored both Adult Use / Recreational Marijuana and the medical marijuana bill that would allow home grows and smoking products for patients in the 2019-20 legislative cycle.
And vice chair will be filled by cannabis reform warrior and hero Sen.-elect Melissa Agard Sargent, according to Bewley chief-of-staff Joseph Hoey. Sargent has consistently been a leader on the issue of adult use cannabis legislation for Wisconsin. One of my favorite quotes by Sargent is “The facts clearly show that legalization is right for Wisconsin and that the most dangerous thing about marijuana is that it’s illegal”.
To address the comprehensive nature of marijuana laws, we need legislators who sponsored the various bills throughout the 2019-20 session to work together towards sensible cannabis reform.
With public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all time high, we request key Senate and Assembly allies to form the first-ever Wisconsin Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to reform state cannabis laws.