As Senator Scott Fitzgerald now a congressman-elect he will be leaving his seat as Senate Majority Leader,. Wisconsin Senate Republicans voted early in November 2020 to name Senator Devin LeMahieu as new Majority Leader. LeMahieu will be the new head of their caucus following an election that increased their hold on the Senate chamber by two seats.
The 9th District of the Wisconsin Senate is located in Eastern Wisconsin, and is composed of parts of Manitowoc County, Sheboygan County, and Calumet County.
The area of the 9th Senate District contains three State Assembly Districts:
- The 25th (represented by Paul Tittl – Past Decriminalization Author / Medical Marijuana Co-Sponsor)
- The 26th (represented by Terry Katsma)
- The 27th (represented by Tyler Vorpagel)
LeMahieu was one of the 17 Senators not up for election in 2020. Of those 17 seats, 11 are held by Republicans. Senator LeMahieu was in the majority for sure. He joined almost all seated Senators that received a failing grade during the 2019-20 session. But that means he is up for re-election in 2022. He should be a target for a primary challenger!
But before we dive into the the recent comments the Majority Leader LeMahieu gave about Governor Evers plan to tax and regulate the cannabis industry, we should look at some history on this guy.
Following Wisconsin Politics is hard enough when examining the elected officials. But when you throwthe chess match of the primary / special election / appointment strategy of both parties into the mix, well… not too many people care, watch, learn or listen.
Over the past 10 years the primary races have been where much of the action has taken place in the area of marijuana reform. For consistent election cycles, main stream media questions each candidate and incumbent on marijuana reform, making it somewhat easier to get a “public stance” from Wisconsin politicians.
Back in 2012 is when I first heard of Devin LeMahieu as he tried to take out an Incumbent Republican in the the 2012 primary.
Now, it is not totally unusual for a Republican Incumbent to face a challenger in the primary, but it does not happen often. And when it does, we rarely hear of the losing challenger again in the political fields.
Not this time, as LeMahieu his bid to replace an Incumbent Republican Assembly Representative in the primary by 1.717 votes. That may not sound like much, that was a loss of 20%.
In 2014 we saw District 9 Senator Joseph K. “Joe” Leibham retire to the private sector after loosing a very close (219) 6th Congressional Primary Race to Glen Grothman.
Martha Laning ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. Devin Lemahieu ran unopposed in the Republican primary. Republican candidate Barry Nelson was removed from the candidate list prior to the primary.
Lamahieu defeated Laning in the general election by 20% points to take the Senate District 9 Seat.
Out of the 25 attendees in a 2017 listening session, nine people voiced their support of legalizing medical marijuana in the state. Many cited mental health issues they believed would be better treated with cannabis oil than with pharmaceuticals.
“There is a lot of interest on both sides of the issue,” LeMahieu said. “… It is great to have these listening sessions and hear people’s opinions.”
His office has continued to ignore the issue and has chosen to remain uneducated while sticking to prohibition as the ideal model set forth by the federal government.
Field Activists from the area have turned in and processed signature forms to his office for years. Constituents continued to attend listening sessions.
In 2018 LeMahieu did not face a challenger in the primary and went on to defeat Democrat Kyle Whelton by 17% points in the Senate General Election.
Email from Senator regarding 2019-2020 SB 750 (Republican attempt to create a medical marijuana program):
The State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (SCAODA) created a Marijuana Ad-Hoc Committee which included public health experts throughout Wisconsin. The Marijuana Ad-Hoc Committee recommended that cannabinoid pharmaceuticals continue to be subject to the same rigorous standards for approval as any other prescription drug, and that they not be available for patients until approved by the FDA.
At the federal level, marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug. Schedule I is the federal government’s most restrictive designation. At the state level, it is important to not pass laws that conflict with federal law. Creating a patchwork of laws among the 50 states creates problems with enforcement across state lines.
March 2020: When asked to co-sponsor the new Republican led but bipartisan Decriminalization bill LRB-5228, Senator Devin LeMahieu sent this email basically dodging the issue yet again this session: “The State Assembly has adjourned its regular session. No legislation to legalize or decriminalize marijuana passed the State Assembly prior to its adjournment. Therefore, no marijuana legislation can be signed into law this session. ”
February 19th, 2021: Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) tells CBS 58 since it’s still illegal at the federal government, he’s not open to legalizing marijuana in any form.
“If the FDA approves it, I would be open to it, but at this point, the federal government hasn’t done that,” LeMahieu said.
LeMehiue said he could only see himself supporting marijuana use for medical purposes if there was strict enforcement, but reiterated concerns that the federal government currently classifies cannabis as a substance 1 drug.
later that same day news reported:
February 19th, 2021: The state Senate’s top Republican said Friday he’s against legalizing recreational marijuana, something Democratic Governor Tony Evers proposed in his budget for the next two-year cycle.
Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) said he was deferring to the police departments with whom he’s discussed the issue.
“Recreationally, no, I’m not [in favor of legalization].” LeMahieu said. “I’ve heard from local law enforcement, law enforcement around the state have all taken stands it’s really dangerous to be legalizing marijuana recreationally at this point.“
LeMahieu’s mention of public safety aligns with similar comments over the past couple weeks from other Republicans senators Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg).
While LeMahieu said he opposed taking up medical marijuana – or even decriminalization of the substance – as part of the state budget, he left the door somewhat open on those issues as standalone legislation.
“There are Republicans that have bills for both of those so they need to go through the legislative process like any other policy idea,” LeMahieu said.
Still, LeMahieu cautioned that with marijuana still illegal at the federal level, he would be hesitant to support any type of measure that did not call for extreme regulation of who could acquire the drug through a prescription.
“Unless it’s approved and there’s tight ways it’s used for medicinal purposes, then maybe we can start having that discussion,” LeMahieu said.
then a few days later the reports say:
February 23rd, 2021 : LeMahieu said Legislative Republicans are open to discussions on medical marijuana and decriminalizing marijuana possession, but he wants those efforts to go through the legislative process, not the budget. Sen Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) made a similar argument on WISN’s UpFront regarding juvenile justice reforms in Evers’ budget.
Up for election in 2022, LeMahieu will be the center of attention for the next year as cannabis legislation attempts from both parties will no doubt try to move through his house. We have already saw a Republican led decriminalization bill circulated for co-sponsorship prior to Governor Evers overshadowing the otherwise news worthy event.