Republican 2021 Spring Survey lacks marijuana reform

Governor Evers first budget in 2018 asked for decriminalization of personal possession of marijuana and a medical cannabis program. The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) said NO. In the Spring of 2019, many Republican Assembly Members team up to conduct a “Spring GOP Survey“.

The 2019 GOP Assembly Spring Survey was worded like this:

Legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes has been proposed. Law enforcement, educators and the medical community oppose legalization. Which best describes your views on marijuana legalization?

The following are the number of responses that we received for each of the answers made available:

A)      I do not support any legalization of marijuana use

B)      I support full decriminalization of marijuana for recreational or medical use

C)      I support limited medical legalization only

I did some digging and the results of the surveys archived are not surprising. I will not walk you through them all, but will highlight a few items for a variety of reasons. You can always view my notes and history of elected officials stances on cannabis reform at The Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Network Elected Officials Page.

Medical Marijuana Hopes in 2017-18 crushed by Republicans, again
Medical Marijuana Hopes in 2021-22 crushed by Republicans, again

My own Assembly District 41 which at the time was Rep. Joan Ballweg (R). She is now my Senator representing Senate District 14. 73-83% supported reform of cannabis laws. The Assembly District 41 is now represented by Alex Dallman (R) who was already flipped flopped around on decriminalization and said unless the cops support it he is not. He also gave a false statement in the Ripon News and constituents are not happy with him, neither are lobbyist. It seems Dallman is off to a hard start trying to appease his party and his constituents needs. Ballweg or Dallman have yet to co-sponsor any positive marijuana reform bills.

Rep. Samantha Kerkman(R) 74% supported reform. We highly expected her to sponsor medical cannabis legislation.  She has not and during the budget process had a chance to make more positive statements than she did about cannabis.

Rep. James “Jimmy Boy” Edming In Assembly District 87. We did not hear much publicly from this Assembly Representative.   Although supporters in the district have said in conversations with the Edming, they felt good about his support for medical marijuana, we are never sure until they sponsor something in writing.    The Spring GOP Survey in the district yielded 67% support for medical marijuana.  The good news is that Rep Edming sponsored both versions of medical marijuana bills this session, along with a companion bill to protect privacy of firearms owners who are also medical marijuana patients.

Rep. Gary Tauchen 63% supported reform. Roy Martin from the Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Network has been working with this representative to gain his support. Tauchen is retiring and will not seek re-election in 2022 and guess what, Roy Martin (R) intends to run in the Assembly District 6 in the Republican Primary. So we ask constituents that live in and around the following areas of Wittenberg, Embarrass, Shawano, Clintonville, Pulaski, Hortonville, New London, Bear Creek and rural parts of Shawano, Waupaca, Outagamie and Brown counties surrounding those cities to sign up today with the WI-CAN Network to stay informed of this important race!

Jon Plumer (R-Lodi) Assembly District 42 with 70.5% supported reform. Rep. Plumer is a sponsor of the Republican Assembly Bill 750 Creation of a Medical Marijuana Program as a freshman Republican. Past Chair of Committee on Substance Abuse and Prevention he failed to recognize that medical marijuana could help and prevent substance abuse, a term we all know as harm reduction. So of course there is always angles and work to be done!

Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) AD 34 had 63% support. Powerful committee chair and Tavern League. His buddy Rep. John Spiros (R-Marshfield) from AD86 had 68% supporting reform. These two are something else and of course Rob is against reform and seems pretty active in trying to stop it. He has blocked bills as a committee chair.

Rep. Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls) in Assembly District 30 had 76% support… wow! We really feel we could have failed this legislator during our conversations, but he does “support medical marijuana” in theory, and in the news…. but with no action past sessions and re-elected in 2020, we highly expect his name on medical marijuana next session!

Overall it was clear that a majority of GOP Assembly Representatives who asked their constituents about marijuana reform had support for the issue. We did learn in 2019-2020 that Republicans co-authored bi-partisan medical cannabis and decriminalization bills. Republicans also presented an additional version of a medical cannabis bill that would have created a program from Wisconsin. Ultimately all these bills died in committee without a even a public hearing.

Now in 2021 Governor Evers again proposed cannabis reform as part of his budget, this time including the taxation of sales. The proposed tax projection of $156 million annual was also stripped from the budget and again the medical cannabis program was also removed. The Joint Finance Committee members have support from Republican Leadership on continuing prohibition at all costs.

The headline of the title says it all. The 2021 Spring Surveys I have been reading from Republicans lack marijuana reform. Is it because they do not want to see the high support for reform? Are members in general from both parties all over the board on cannabis reform that neither caucus has a strategy for passing cannabis reform? Is the political atmosphere in Madison just that awful that something as popular with voters as marijuana reform will die in committee again? Can Wisconsinites even collect 78,000 – 100,000 signatures in a 60 day period to force something? Will any Republicans stand up and offer a Republican version of adult use marijuana reform?

Of the 61 Assembly Members in the Republican Party, I found three (3) that are at least asking their constituents about the issue on the 2021 Spring Surveys and they are:

Rep. Rob Brooks (R-Saukville) (Link to Survey): Republican assembly representative from Saukville was elected in 2014.  During 2019, the Assembly Republicans prefiled a bill for the 2020 legislative session to create a medical marijuana program in Wisconsin (Assembly Bill 750) which he failed to co-sponsor.  In 2021, he co-sponsored a decriminalization bill.

Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers) (Link to 2021 Budget Survey): He ran for office as a Republican and spoke about marijuana reform on the campaign trail in 2018.  He sponsored legislation his first session as a freshman Assembly Representative.  He is leading the way to common sense reform within the GOP. Before the 2nd budget came out, he authored Assembly Bill 130 to Decriminalize 10 grams or less of marijuana to a $100 fine.

Rep. Rachael Cabral-Guevara (R-Neenah) (Link to Spring Budget Survey): She says is open to any innovative to bring in revenues, other states have legalized adult use and we know the pros and cons, many constituents have contacted her support for adult use. For medial marijuana, she knows patients who have been prescribed marijuana and it benefits them, in a time that we are missing 2 million in revenue is it something to look at possibly. As a newly elected assembly rep in November 2020, we have high hopes for her this upcoming session!

Does your Senator or Assembly Representative have a current survey with a marijuana question on it, please let me know.

Or better yet, help make marijuana a priority in the 2021-22 legislative session by asking your elected officials to survey their constituents on the issue. Begin a cannabis conversation with your representatives today and add a personal note to our pre-written letter of support:

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