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All eyes on these Republicans in 2023

In my 2022 Election and State Assembly Candidate Coverage for the Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Network and Northern Wisconsin NORML I reported that 94% of the Democratic Assembly Candidates supported outright legalization of marijuana for responsible adult use. Only two Democratic candidates were “medical only” at that time and they were not elected. So 100% of the Democrat State Assembly Representatives elected and serving Wisconsin for the 2023-24 legislative session support ending the prohibition of cannaibs.

For the the 2022 Republican State Assembly candidate field only 14% were vocal on supporting legalization of adult use marijuana. There were too many Republican candidates that did not make any public comments on the issue or participate in a Wisconsin EYE Candidate Interview. Just two years ago, there were only a few without a stance on marijuana reform and this election cycle there were too many candidates that went without saying the word marijuana. None the less, the GOP candidates did elect a few new names to their rooster, including some very vocal cannabis candidates.

Republican Cannabis Candidates
Republican Cannabis Caucus

Republican Assembly Representatives

Newly Elected in 2022

Joy Goeben (District 5):

(608) 237-9105 Email: Rep.Goeben@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

While on the campaign trail Joy Goeben said “I support medical marijuana and would like to see more research to find areas where it would be helpful and in what areas it is not effective. I am a strong supporter of veterans and have looked into the benefits of medical marijuana on mental health conditions such as PTSD, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. I understand that there is a trend where marijuana is being substituted for other drugs which can allow for improvements in overall health. Medical professionals should have access to the tools they need to help their patients, marijuana is one of those tools. I am still researching the use of recreational marijuana. While I am a strong supporter of personal freedom, I want to carefully consider the issue because I do not want to introduce or support legislation that will cause harm.”

Goeben takes over the seat of Jim Steinke as he leaves the Assembly.

Tom Michalski (District 13):

(608) 237-9113 Email: Rep.Michalski@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

Tom Michalski said on the campaign trail “He said he is a child of the 70’s and marijuana is a gateway drug.  He says he has mixed emotions about it.  He recognizes that many people are strongly against, but he is keeping his options open yet.  He does want or is in favor of getting the marijuana out of the hands of dealers.”

Angie Sapik (District 73):

Telephone: (608) 237-9173 Email: Rep.Sapik@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

On the campaign trial Angie Sapik told me “Let’s be clear on my stance with cannabis. I support legalizing and regulating the use of cannabis and believe the legislation should be conducted at the state level. I’m a pro-business candidate and cannabis business is booming. I also support decriminalization for possession and the freedom for recreational or medicinal use of cannabis. While I have not authored or co-sponsored a legalization bill, I believe I would be inclined to support such legislation.

It should be noted that Sapik represents the district including the City of Superior, which recently passed a referendum for recreational marijuana by over 79%. Sapik won this seat that was formerly held by Democrat Nick Milroy.

Nate Gustafson (District 55):

Telephone: (608) 237-9155 Email: Rep.Gustafson@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

A Republican insider said he is for legalization and libertarian leaning on this issue. He did indicate to me he is not against legalization but has not developed a formal stance on the issue, he would just like more data regarding it.

Gustafson replaces one of the most supportive and vocal Republicans in the Assembly as Rachael Cabral-Guevara leaves this seat and takes the Senate Seat.

Scott Johnson (District 33):

Telephone: (608) 237-9133 Email: Rep.Johnson@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

During Scott Johnson candidate WI EYE Interview 14:23 he indicates yes to medical marijuana and recreational down the road, marijuana is a drug, like alcohol and tobacco and formal recognition of it and regulation of marijuana would be beneficial to the public.

Johnson beat Democrat Don Vruwink to take this seat.

Karen Hurd (District 68):

Telephone: (608) 237-9168 Email: Rep.Hurd@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

Karen Hurd told me “I am currently researching and studying the issue of the legalization of marijuana. I have been given written material by constituents on both sides of the issue—and then I have my own educational/clinical experience in working with those of my clients that are users of marijuana. My Master of Science degree in Biochemistry has given me the molecular knowledge of how cannabinoids impact cells. However, there is more yet to know, and other considerations most be taken into account besides the impact at the cellular level. I also am gathering data from other states as well that have legalized marijuana and what impact it has had—whether pro or con. Many constituents have spoken to me about this issue—some pro, some con.”

Hurd takes over the Assembly Seat of Jesse James (R) as he goes onto to take the Senate seat of former Republican cannabis supporter Kathy Bernier. I highly expect Karen Hurd to be a leader in her party on the issue of marijuana reform.

Chanz Green (Assembly District 74):

Telephone: (608) 237-9174 Email: Rep.Green@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

Republicans in this area of Northern Wisconsin stated they supported Green because of his stance on marijuana reform and some insiders indicated Chanz supported reforming the marijuana laws. His candidate WI EYE 11:08 Interview  also indicate he is supportive of medical marijuana but before committing on recreational he would want to study it.

Chanz Green takes the seat in an open race as the area Democrat Beth Meyers did not seek re-election. This area saw a change in guard sort of speak, as two Assembly Districts and the overlying Senate District turned red.

Dave Maxey (District 15):

Telephone: (608) 237-9115 Email: Rep.Maxey@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

I am not labeling Maxey anything at this point. He is on the city of New Berlin City Board. He had no response about marijuana reform when contacted and did not conduct candidate interviews. He ran unopposed so he did not need to address anything really to get his job. He replaces Joe Sanfelippo who was responsible for blocking legislation in his committee. We need to keep an eye on this newly elected Republican.

Republican Incumbents

Clint Moses (District 29):

Telephone: (608) 237-9129 Email: Rep.Moses@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

Clint Moses is a Chiropractor. In his candidate interview from 2020 he said he used to be against marijuana in any form, but he does support medical now, because of his practice he witnessed patients use cannabis with great success, especially chronic pain. He goes onto state that any drug could be misused, like tobacco or alcohol.  – July 2, 2020 Candidate Interview.

His 2020 Candidate Questionnaire Answers on file, candidate supports 2019-20 Assembly Bill 220 and received an Endorsement from NORML in the 2020 Election. He did co-sponsor decriminalization legislation his first term in office.

Shae Sortwell (District 2):

Telephone: (608) 237-9102 Email: Rep.Sortwell@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees
Rep. Sortwell (R)

Shae Sortwell spoke about marijuana reform on the campaign trail in 2018. He sponsored legislation his first session as a freshman Assembly Representative and again his second term. He is leading the way to some common sense reform within the GOP and has authored many bills relating to marijuana law reform.

I do feel Sortwell will be a key player in future legalization bills as the federal government removes some of the obstacles this legislator has said are obstacles to reform. Even if Sortwell did author a Republican version of adult use legislation, he would have a tough sell to his leadership to get a public hearing.

Shannon Zimmerman (District 30):

Telephone: (608) 237-9130 Email: Rep.Zimmerman@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls) is not new to talking about marijuana reform this legislative session. He, fellow Republican Rob Stafsholt, R-New Richmond and Democratic Senator Patty Schachtner hashed out marijuana reform in their districts in February of 2019

In the spring of 2019 after overwhelming support in the Wisconsin public marijuana referendums the previous fall, many of the Assembly GOP members held a spring survey which was posted online and sent in the email to people on their mailing list. The results of Assembly Representative Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls) spring survey are not surprising as 76.48% of his district supported medical marijuana.

Who else in the Assembly? Past co-sponsors?

We also need to keep an eye on the additional Republicans that show up to co-sponsor medical marijuana or decriminalization bills for their party. They are Snyder = past medical bill lead assembly author, Schraa = one of the first to author a decriminalization bill and current Chair of Corrections Committee, Rozar = medical background/co-sponsor medical, Edming = past cosponsor Chair of Veterans and Military Affairs, Kitchens one of the first Republicans to cosponsor medical home grow, Krug= past cosponsor, Macco = called out leadership for not allowing movement, Novak = Chair of Committee on Local Government, Tittl = first Republican to call for public hearing on medical and past co-sponsor, Brooks = past cosponsor, Knodl = a new surprise cosponsor in 2022, Plumer = past cosponsor and also Assistant Majority Leader, Spiros= past cospsonsor medical and Chair of Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and Summerfield = past cosponsor and Majority Caucus Chair.

When I start doing math I see many paths to passing medical marijuana reform in the Assembly, but before we get to excited we need to look at the Senate.

Republican Senators

I was proud to report that 100% of the Democratic Senate Candidates supported reform in my Senate candidate analysis of the 2022 election. Sadly that was not so much the case for Republicans as only 23% of the GOP Candidates supported legalization. With only four (4) Republican candidates in 2022 addressing support for a change in the marijuana laws for adult use, that leaves a great deal of work to be had in the GOP as the other thirteen (13) candidates that are not so kind to cannabis. A small victory or two can be declared as we did manage to elect a few friendly Republicans to the Senate. Keep your eyes on these new folks and some familiar names in the up coming legislative session.

Cory Tomczyk (Senate District 29):

Telephone: (608) 266-2502 Email: Sen.Tomczyk@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

Cory Tomczyk told us that he supports medical marijuana and it should have been legal by now. But he cannot support outright legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

Rachael “RCG” Cabral-Guevara (Senate District 19):

Telephone: (608) 266-0718 Email: Sen.Cabral-Guevara@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees
Representative Rachael Cabral-Guevara Assembly District 55 (R - Appleton)

Racheal Cabral-Guevara says she is open to any innovative ways to bring in revenues. She said “other states have legalized adult use and we know the pros and cons, and many constituents have contacted her for support of adult use cannabis.

Republican leadership assigned her Room 420 North her first term in session. In 2021-22, “RCG” was the only Republican to co-sponsor a medical marijuana measure that allowed home grows and smoking products. She represents The City of Appleton passed a recreational marijuana referendum by over 68%. Cabral-Guevara moves up from the Assembly to the Senate and we highly anticipate to see her work on this issue in the Senate.

Romaine Quinn (Senate District 25):

Telephone: (608) 266-3510 Email: Sen.Quinn@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

The 2019 GOP Spring Survey Quinn conducted while in the Assembly showed 67% of his base supported medical marijuana and Quinn did end up co-sponsoring the Republican attempt to create a medical marijuana program.   Since elected in 2014 Rep. Quinn has seemed like a marijuana reformer. 

In 2022 he said this: “I don’t believe the government should stand in the way of somebody who has a chronic or terminal illness that could find relief by consuming marijuana in some form, which is why I also voted for “Right to Try” legislation when I was in the state assembly,” he said.

But Quinn doesn’t think the state is prepared for full legalization. “I also do not believe that those who use marijuana recreationally are bad people,” said Quinn. “If you go to work, pay your taxes, and don’t neglect your health or the health of your children, I have a hard time saying what you can or cannot do in the confines of your own home.

The key concern for law enforcement, which is a group I would look to for guidance on this, is that there is no good way to tell when someone is driving high. Unless we expect our police to start performing blood draws on the side of the road, we need the technology to make sure our roadways are safe before expanding more opportunities for impaired driving.”  

Quinn now represents the Senate District containing the City of Superior, which recently passed a recreational cannabis referendum by over 79%. Will Quinn respond by being the first Republican to author or co-sponsor a recreational marijuana bill? It should be noted that Quinn takes the Senate Seat of Democrat Janet Bewley who was a thorn in the side of legalization.

Jesse James (Senate District 23):

Telephone: (608) 266-7511 Email: Sen.James@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

The leading prohibitionist in the Assembly, Rep. Jesse James was a co-sponsor of the 2019 Republican attempt to create a medical marijuana program (the “pill bill” that did not allow smoking products or home grows).

He has been outspoken as wanting to be the lead on stopping recreational marijuana reform from happening in Wisconsin. Long time prohibitionist and mega rich man Senator Duey Stroebel was listening when Rep. James was mouthing off, and the two have collaborated to concentrate on finding some way to increase penalties for cannabis use.

During the 2021 legislation session, Rep. Jesse James circulated a bill to increase the penalty levels for BHO, butane hash oil products, both manufacturing and simple possession.   Author of SB 440 – Butane Hash Oil Enhanced Penalty Bill.

James is a Member of the Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse.

Patrick Testin (Senate District 24):

President Pro Tempore

Telephone: (608) 266-3123 Email: Sen.Testin@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

Medical Marijuana is supported and co-sponsored in the Senate by Republican Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point). He was lead sponsor on the Republican side in 2019 on a medical marijuana bill allowing smoking products and home grows.  This is the first time a Republican signed their name to a bill in nearly two decades.

Last session Senator Testin was very quiet on the issue and did not show up as a co-sponsor to any Republican marijuana bills. Supporters in his area are worried Testin is not moving forward on the issue fast enough. Recently in his district the City of Stevens Point passed the 2022 recreational marijuana referendum by over 74%. Testin is up for re-election in 2024 and we hope to see signs of life from him in the upcoming legislative session.

Eric Wimberger (Senate District 30):

Telephone: (608) 266-5670 Email: Sen.Wimberger@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees

Wimberger ran in 2014 for State Assembly lost by 18% points. He also ran for the Wisconsin State Senate for District 30 in 2016 and only lost by 3% points. He was successful in a bid for State Senate in 2020 as the incumbent retired. He joined the Political Radar crew to in 2016 to discuss several key issues that are emerging in Wisconsin. They discuss the viability of marijuana legalization in Wisconsin and its challenges.  And now it is 2020 and “It is just a plant” came from Wimbergers lips.  What does that tell us.  Over the years he has made several public statements about marijuana reform in interviews.

One of his best quotes to understand his stance on cannabis is this “It is just a plant, harder to manage then alcohol and get ahold of it.  Philosophy of what one person does to their own person should not be a crime.

Eric Wimberger is a small business owner, an attorney for his own law practice, and a former U.S. Marine Corps Captain JAG Officer. He is also a member of the Commission on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, Council on and Uniform State Laws. We highly anticipated his support for his GOP colleagues trying to reform the laws, but he has yet to co-sponsor any legislation.

Mary Felzkowski (Senate District 12):

Telephone: (608) 266-2509 Email: Sen.Felzkowski@legis.wisconsin.gov

Current Committees
WI Senator Felzkowski

Mary Felzkowski has been one of the most vocal Republicans in Wisconsin about the need for a medic al marijuana law to pass. She is trying and is willing to listen, but is up against Republican leadership who continue to be opposed to reform measures. Although Felzkowski may not be totally there yet on recreational, an interview back in early 2020 had her saying this she thinks it should be decriminalized at the federal level. “Fines and penalties are one thing, but to make it a felony or misdemeanor, I struggle with that,” said Felzkowski.

Her past efforts to pass medical marijuana legislation finally led to a public hearing in the Senate during 2022. All eyes are on Mary Felzkowski as the 2023-24 legislation session starts. Her leadership has all but taken medical marijuana off the table as they want the FDA to regulate it vs the state. Her leadership as also thrown down the challenge that recreational marijuana will not move until a majority of the Republicans are on board. How will Felzkowski handle this hostile work environment and how will she move more of her Republican colleagues to outright legalization when she is not even there herself yet? Tough questions need tough answers and maybe it is time for a different approach from this GOP cannabis reformer.

United States Congressional Representative

Derek Van Orden (Congressional District 3)

Back in 2020 Derrick Van Orden participated in some facebook banter about cannabis reform with a veteran cannabis activist.  Van Order replied “I support the legalization of medical marijuana, not recreational.”  He goes onto  add “That may not be popular position with some Republicans, but it has been proven to work for several different conditions.  As a SEAL, we understand that if it works, it works.”  Since that time, it seems Derrick has dodged the issue, candidate interviews and debates.

Van Orden takes the seat of Ron Kind (D), leaving only two Democrats representing Wisconsin in the US House of Representatives. Will Van Orden be able to work with the federal legislators who care about medical cannabis reform or was his banter just that?

Washington D.C. Office 1513 Longworth House Office Building
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