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Will Republican committee chairs repeat and kill the pot bills

Wisconsin had a pretty good chance to pass medical marijuana legislation in the 2019-20 legislative cycle. Governor Tony Evers proposed both medical marijuana and decriminalization in that budget. Republicans gutted anything marijuana or cannabis related from the budget. Republicans controlled both the Senate and Assembly and the various cannabis bills went to two different committees chaired (controlled) by Republicans.

The two medical marijuana bills went to the Senate Committee on Operations, Legal Review and Consumer Protection and the Assembly Committee of State Affairs. Note that the medical marijuana bills in the past decade had gone to different committees (Senate/Assembly Health Committee), so this caught activists attention.

Senator Duey Stroebel (R) Marijuana Grade
Senator Duey Stroebel (R) Marijuana Grade

The Senate Committee on Operations, Legal Review and Consumer Protection was chaired by hemp cannabis hater Republican Duey Strobel in 2019-2020. Senator Duey Strobel ran unopposed in the recent 2020 election and will again the chair this committee in 2021-22. Should medical marijuana land again in this committee, Strobel is really out numbered 1 to 4 members. The two democrats on the committee are known supporters/sponsors of medical marijuana bills in the past, former assembly rep and Republican medical marijuana bill sponsor Mary Felzkowski joins the committee and newly elected Republican Senator Julian Bradley supported medical marijuana reform as a candidate. Still, Strobel got the appointment for a reason, was it to make sure the “debate” did not turn into a circus or was it just to kill the bill(s), again.

Rep. Rob Swearingen Marijuana Record
Rep. Rob Swearingen Marijuana Record

The Assembly Committee of State Affairs is again going to be chaired by Rep. Rob Swearingen. This 13 member committee does have four (4) democrats on it, with Tip McGuire as the notable standout as not a bill co-sponsor last session. The rest of the Republicans on the committee are all incumbents so we can easily find their past performance reports on the issue and I will say my initial glance at the rest of members does not make me excited. Still, we have to get through to Rob Swearingen, as the chair has the power to call a bill for a public hearing and the last time we had one of those on medical marijuana was over a decade ago.

The one adult use/legalization bill and two decriminalization bills went to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety and the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety is chaired again by Republican Senator Van Wanggaard. We can talk all we want about Van Wanggaard and I will say a few sessions back, in 2017, when the Republicans floated a 10 gram $100 fine decriminalization bill, he and his office did not even believe me that the bill was in his committee, obviously it was not on his radar screen for a public hearing. Now much has changed since 2017, but Senator Darling again sits on this committee and also Senator Andre Jacque. Have Darling and Jacque changed their stance on recreational marijuana…… NO…. could they and Van Wanggaard get the decriminalization mentality and just do something this session….. MAYBE. Newly elected Senator Julian Bradley comes up again in this committee which helps the decriminalization bills for sure. New comer to the Senate, this committee and another Republican who as a candidate supported reform is Eric Wimberger. The two democrats on this committee are bill sponsors.

Senator Van H. Wanggaard Majority Caucus Chair Senate District 21 (R - Racine)
Senator Van H. Wanggaard Senate District 21 (R – Racine)

Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety is again chaired by Rep. John Spiros. Read up on Spiros and tell me what you think. The 15 member committee is a dynamic group! Of the five (5) Democrats on the committee, three (3) are sponsors of legalization legislation, Dora Drake as a candidate was supportive and that leaves us Tip McGuire again….read up on him……. at first glance to the rest of committee on the Republican side, we have some Republican medical/decriminalization bill authors, a new guy, some unknowns… so overall… not horrible for decriminalization, but not the best for legalization.

Representative John Spiros Assembly District 86 (R - Marshfield)
Representative John Spiros Assembly District 86 (R – Marshfield)

So if history repeats itself and the same type of bills land in the same committees we have to really expect much of the same.

The Decriminalization Bill SB 164 / AB 130 was again assigned to the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety as noted above, but the Senate version was sent to Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform which is chaired by Senator Nass (R-Whitewater) and co-chaired by Senator Wanggaard (R-Racine and Majority Caucus Chair) and Senator Rob Stafsholt (R-Richmond). The two Democrats, Senator Wirch (D-Somers) and Senator Johnson (D-Milwaukee).

Stephen Nass – (Committee Chair) (R – WI) Holds office State Senate District 11: Owner, rental property business. Former payroll benefits analyst and information analyst/negotiator. Member of Wisconsin Air National Guard (retired, CMSgt, 33 years of service), served in Middle East in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. (Opposed / Voted NO to Industrial Hemp) – Ran Uncontested in 2018up for re-election in 2022

Rob Stafsholt (R – WI) Holds office State Senate District 10: Small business owner of residential rental and real estate investment company; farmer; assistant coach for the New Richmond-Somerset High School trap team. Former co-owner of a salad and food dressings manufacturing and sales company; mortgage loan originator. (Medical / Decriminalization)

Please use the Action Network Action Alert below to express your support decriminalizing marijuana in Wisconsin.

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