Wisconsin’s historic bipartisan cannabis decriminalization bill in 2017 included a number of sponsors of cannabis law reform legislation not seen before.
The legislators on this bill included a few Republicans and were led by Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake). There were five other GOP cosponsors, Kathleen Bernier (R-Lake Hallie), Reps. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), Paul Tittl (R-Manitowoc) and Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh). Jarchow and his five GOP colleagues were also sponsors of the bipartisan industrial hemp legislation that session.
While Gov. Scott Walker was a steadfast opponent of anything beyond the weak CBD law passed that same year. The GOP side of the legislature appeared to be slowly warming to supporting cannabis-related bills. Republicans are no longer seeing cannabis as a negative but as a way to connect with constituents and get votes.
Walker out, Evers in … is medical coming?
When Walker lost his reelection bid in Nov. 2018, Wisconsin should have finally joined the long list of states who are rejecting cannabis prohibition. But instead, the Republican controlled legislature has yet to present any sort of cannabis legalization bill. Republicans offering a weak medical bill to appease Republican committee members back fired in 2019. Republican authors took heat for the weak unworkable language in the bill, limiting medical conditions, and a “hidden” transfer tax on medicine. Bill authors insisted they support more reform, but this language was needed to gain support from Republican controlled committees. The start up medical bill was rejected by Republican controlled committees and no public hearing was held.
Jarchow was not an elected official during this time and was in private practice as an attorney.
But the bill Jarchow introduced back in 2017 has now morphed a little, but has become a priority for some Republicans in the ranks. The 2021-22 version of “marijuana decriminalization” (Assembly Bill 130 / Senate Bill 164) was introduced by Republicans before the budget process even began and that showed how important it is. This bill is our best chance for any reform passing this legislative session.
Leadership sets the tone
In early 2021, Republican Leadership on the Senate side opposed medical marijuana regulations until the FDA runs the show and that really hurts everyone, including sympathetic Republicans. Republican Senator LeMahieu laid down the challenge that until a majority of his party can support total legalization of cannabis, nothing will advance under his watch as Senate Leader.
Democrats try again, will Republicans counter?
The Democrat legalization bill attracted a record number of co-sponsors, but none of them are Republican. The Democrat version of legalization is dead on arrival and now it is up to Republicans to offer a legalization bill.
Republicans have set the ground work for sample legislation by recently introducing a bill to legalize Kratom in Wisconsin. Many advocates applaud the simplicity of the bill language, accomplishing removing a plant from the Wisconsin controlled substance act and allowing the regulation of said plant in a four (4) page bill.
Jarchow now announces he is willing to enter the Attorney General Race in 2022. Will cannabis decriminalization be part of his campaign? It is early and yet to be seen, but chances are yes, as he and his campaign know it is a sure way to attract voters!
UPDATE: Jarchow responds to YES WI CAN on Twitter:
The hemp bill is working. It is clear that Republicans are ready to thoughtfully move forward on this issue. I suggest that we move to legalize medical and decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis. Those positions would have deep and broad support across Wisconsin. https://t.co/UgAyQrpnuW— Adam Jarchow (@therealadamjar1) October 31, 2021
What can everyone do in the meantime?
Watch for more on the Jarchow campaign as election time 2022 gets closer. We will want you to reach out to him to on what is is going to take to earn your vote as Attorney General.
Sign up as a volunteer with the Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Network today! Once it comes time to phone bank and call some candidates using our scripts, you will want to be on high on our volunteer list!
Feel free to mention the above information in your contact to your elected officials when you tell them to “Make Marijuana a Priority in Wisconsin!” The current petition allows you to express support for the decriminalization bill (AB 130/SB 164), legalization bill (SB 545) and also oppose the BHO Enhancer Bill (AB440/SB440) all with the stroke of a few keys!