WI Adult Use Cannabis Legislation 2023-24 Committee Analysis

WI Adult Use Cannabis Legislation 2023-24 Committee Analysis by Jay Selthofner

The comprehensive legislation addressing cannabis reform under an adult use / medical marijuana has been submitted and assigned Senate Bill 486 and Assembly Bill 506. The bills were introduced by 25 (out of 35) Democrat Representatives ; while being cosponsored by 10 (out of 11) Democratic Senators. No Republican has added themselves as a co-sponsor of this legislation.

The Senate version has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.

The companion bill in the assembly is a larger group of politicians and I analyze that committee assignment in a later article.

Review how a bill becomes law if you want a quick refresher course in the law making process.

2022 Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety Members:
Senator Wanggaard (R)
Senator Wanggaard (R) (Chair):

Telephone: (608) 266-1832, Email: Sen.Wanggaard@legis.wisconsin.gov. Republican Senator from Racine has not co-sponsored any legislation on marijuana reform since elected in 2010 and most likely will not move his stance of “just say no”. Senator Van Wanggaard was the only one of five Republican elected officials to lose 2012 recall elections prompted by Governor Scott Walker’s successful moves to limit the power of many state and local government union workers. Unfortunately he took his seat back in the 2014 election cycle. He was unopposed in the 2022 general election and is not up for re-election again until 2026.

After coming off a nearly 30 year career with the Racine police force, he now serves as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety again for the 2023-24 legislation session. His steadfast committal to kill bills in his committee are known. Republican leadership sent this bill to his committee to die a quick death.

In April 2019 he wrote an entire op ed piece entitled Is it high time to legalize in Wisconsin? No … The harmful effects on health and society outweigh any potential benefits

During 2019, the Assembly Republicans prefiled a bill for the 2020 legislative session to create a medical marijuana program in Wisconsin (Senate Bill 683) which he failed to co-sponsor. 

Previous legislative sessions adult use and decriminalization bills have failed to advance to even a public hearing under his watch and he is poised to do the same in the 2023-2024 session.

Senator Wanggaard was an author of Senate Bill 440 in 2021-22 session. The bill was set to increase penalties for manufacturing, distribution and use of butane hash oil (BHO) products.

Senate Bill 440 was also in this same committee and received a public hearing on September 16th, 2021. So it is very apparent that the Senator is truly bias against cannabis. Further proof comes in the form of a rebuttal letter from constituent and Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Steffany Caputo:

Good afternoon Senator Wanggaard, 

As much as I appreciate your written response to my email regarding cannabis legalization in WI, I was at the same time extremely disappointed by the falsehoods you are choosing to spread. 

In your letter, dated March 23, 2023 you indicated that the cost of legalizing cannabis often outweighs the tax revenue gains. This is absolutely absurd, you are basing that information off of an old study from 2018 by the Centennial Institute by Colorado Christian University, which has been widely disputed for accuracy. 

Laughable but Widely Cited Report on the Cost of Legalizing Pot Does Not Even Try to Measure the Cost of Legalizing Pot

You go on to mention that there are raised concerns, finding an increased risk of cancer in people who smoke marijuana on a regular basis. You mention that the CDC claims that cannabis smoking causes cancer, according to their website, there is no indication of this. Please note, Senator Wanggaard, association does not mean causation


Lastly, you mentioned that you have spoken to numerous addiction experts, social workers, and constituents who cite marijuana as the gateway to their child’s addiction to serious illegal drugs like heroin and crystal meth. These claims have also been disputed by the CDC, please see below. 


As one of your constituents, I find it offensive that you do not seem to care that over 80% of the voters of WI have indicated that they want safe legal access to cannabis and yet you chose to use outdated, false, and widely disputed claims. It is your job to do what the will of the people want, the people of WI have spoken and you are choosing not to listen. 

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Senator Andre Jacque (R) - Wisconsin
Senator Jacque (R): (Vice Chair)

Telephone: (608) 266-3512, Email:

As an Assembly Representative he ignored constituents on the issue starting back in 2010. As a Senator he repeats his past performance. Jacque is an author of Senate Bill 440 to increase penalties for manufacturing, distribution and use of butane hash oil (BHO) products. Senate Bill 440 is in this same committee and received a public hearing on September 16th, 2021. Jacque is no friend to cannabis reform and he seemed to have been rewarded for his past prohibitionist style efforts by being appointed Vice Chair of this committee by GOP leadership. Jacque was re-elected in 2022 and is not up for re-election until 2026.

Senator Eric Wimberger (R)
Senator Eric Wimberger (R)
Senator Wimberger (R) ( former Vice-Chair in 2021-22):

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

Wimberger ran in 2014 for State Assembly (and lost by 18% points). He also ran for the Wisconsin State Senate for District 30 in 2016 and only lost by 3% points. Wimberger won a State Senate in 2020 as the Democrat Incumbent retires. Wimberger is up for re-election in 2024.

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 Wimberger’s lips.  What does that tell us?  Over the years this candidate has made several public statements about marijuana reform in interviews.

Was his “softer” stance on cannabis the reason he lost his Vice Chair in this committee to prohibitionist Senator Andrea Jacque?

knodl dan senator wi
Senator Knodl (R):

Telephone: (608) 266-5830 Email: Sen.Knodl@legis.wisconsin.gov

As an Assembly Representative, Knodl was one of the first legislators to question the legality of Delta-8 THC Under Federal and State Controlled Substances Acts and how that relates to the Industrial Hemp Programs.

Knodl also said he has “always” supported legalizing medical marijuana, as long as a measure to legalize comes with a provision requiring a doctor’s prescription. He emphatically opposes recreational marijuana though.

My notes from the 2022 election coverage say Dan Knodl was a past committee member and not very vocal about the issue, but in 2021 he finally co-sponsored the Republican version of medical marijuana. Since he has been around since 2008 and the last time we had a public hearing in the Assembly was in 2009, I do not really believe he has “always” supported medical marijuana. He certainly was not labeled as the first Republican to publicly support the issue and we can find no information he supported any legislation prior to the 2021 session.

Daniel Knodl defeated Jodi Habush Sinykin in the special general election for Wisconsin State Senate District 8 on April 4, 2023 by only 1300 votes. This seat currently held by Knodl will be up for re-election in 2024.

james senator
Senator James (R):

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

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. He was just elected in 2022 so that means he is not up for re-election until 2026.

Senator L. Taylor (D)

(Co-Sponsor): Senator Lena Taylor has been a consistent and reliable sponsor of Adult Use, Medical Marijuana and Decriminalization.

Senator Roys (D)

In 2009, her first term in the Assembly, she co-authored a bill to legalize medical marijuana. She sponsored the same bill in her second term as well. Elected to the Senate in 2020 she committed her campaign promise to sponsor adult use legislation and is again a co-sponsor for the 2023-24 bill.

Roys says “Adults should be free to use marijuana without fear of prosecution. We need to stop using our criminal justice resources to prosecute and incarcerate people for cannabis use. We can earn revenue, increase Wisconsin’s agricultural economy, and help stop the unequal enforcement that drives racial disparities in our criminal justice system. It’s time to legalize cannabis for recreational and medicinal use, and grow Wisconsin’s economy.” – source

Important Links

watch and track the 2023-24 Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety:

The Assembly Committee on State Affairs
Representative Rob Swearingen Assembly District 34 (R - Rhinelander)

We will track the progress and report on the Assembly Committee, but it does not look good for adult use cannabis in that committee either.

The Assembly Committee on State Affairs chaired by Republican Rob Swearingen (Rhinelander) Telephone:(608) 237-9134.

On Monday, November 13th, Wisconsin State Representative Rob Swearingen and Senator Mary Felzkowski will be hosting three listening sessions in Assembly District 34. We will be visiting Eagle River, Minocqua, and Rhinelander. We hope to see you there!

Swearingen has blocked marijuana reform as committee chair and gutted marijuana from the budget. If he says he supports medical marijuana, he means the pill bill….and that might be lip service from this guy anyways. He is labeled a prohibitionist. In 2019 this guy took Wisconsin cops, visited the Upper Peninsula marijuana scene and made a YouTube Video highlighting his obviously bias road trip.

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The 14 member committee in the assembly is a dynamic group of politicians, that is for sure! Of the five (5) Democrats on the committee four are are current co-sponsors of adult use cannabis legalization legislation and the other one has been a past co-sponsor, so the Democrats on the committee are good to go!

At first glance to the rest of committee on the Republican side, we have some Republican medical / decriminalization bill authors, a new guy, some definite no votes, but overall my gut tells me 6 out of the 9 Republicans on this committee are much more sympathetic to cannabis reform than they let on.

Since the Republican version of a medical marijuana bill is just collecting dust we do not know which committee would receive that bill. Leadership allowed Felzkowski’s medical bill to go her committee last time and the same will probably happen late this session (too late). The Republican decriminalization bill is said to be part of a larger criminal justice reform package that never happened, so it is doubtful the decriminalization bill will even resurface at this point.

It’s time for WI Adult Use Cannabis Legislation

Use the form below to let your lawmakers know you support legalization of cannabis in Wisconsin! Get on the horn and make some phone calls!

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