Republicans present legalization bill
2021 started off with Republicans submitting Assembly Bill 130 / Senate Bill 164 which would have decriminalized simple marijuana possession at the state level to $100. The 2023-24 legislation session is in full swing and wrapping up and while Democrats unveiled their adult use legalization measures, Republicans have yet to submit any cannabis reform legislation in the 2023-24 session
Of course, everything marijuana reform related was gutted from the budget again this session. In 2021-22 Senate Republican leadership has said NO medical marijuana under their watch until the FDA regulates it for them. This session they really are not echoing that out loud, but still many Republicans cite the “federal conflict” as their reason for not supporting reform measures.
In addition to the FDA stall tactic for medical marijuana, Senate Republican leadership said until a majority of the Republican Caucus supports legalization of cannabis, for medical or adult use purposes, it will be a dead issue.
The 2021 decriminalization bill was out before the budget and died stuck in committee. All pressure is on Republicans to present a cannabis legalization bill or all hopes are lost for even a public hearing on the issue. As the 2023-24 session nears winter break, no GOP bill is in sight and what is drafted is sitting on the shelves collecting dust because the Republicans cannot pass a bill within their caucus alone, they need the Democrats.
A few incumbents have said if the federal barrier was removed they would consider legalization more possible. A bill could be written that would be only be implemented if the federal conflict was resolved, but Republicans have not touched that yet. A few Republican candidates that were vocal supporters of legalization have yet to offer a Republican version of a bill, nor sign on as a co-sponsor to the Democrat version.
So what is next?
Who knows with these people. I think the strategy should be 3 fold. First, form the bipartisan Wisconsin Cannabis Caucus and get rid of this competing caucus/bill strategy. Second would be to have the WI Cannabis Caucus quickly hold informational hearings on the subjects of Decriminalization, medical and adult use subject matters. Third would be to develop one bill from this new caucus with bipartisan and super majority support.
But not much is in the news about marijuana these days. To my surprise, a Google alert went off for an article entitled Psychedelics Reform In California, Wisconsin, Illinois, Massachusetts & Pennsylvania. The Kratom bill is back and making national main stream media. All eyes are on Wisconsin again.
Will the Kratom bill give us hope for some brave Republicans to just substitute the word kratom with cannabis and submit the legislation for consideration? As we have found out, it only takes one of them to author legislation for consideration. So far it has not happened, but guess what? The Kratom Bill is back and fast tracked through the assembly committee and a public hearing has been held already.
Republicans Present Kratom Legalization Bill
The authors behind the Kratom bill are a pretty diverse group.
Senator Mary Felzkowski (R) – Lead Author
Senator Felzkowski fought an uphill battle in the worse committee assignments ever for her legislation she authored to start a medical marijuana program in 2019. She has sponsored a bill, giving multiple positive news statements about decriminalization, and understands a great deal about the topic of marijuana reform. Her willingness to learn more and all the extra credit she is doing helps secure her solid rating with activists. So far in 2023 she has not re-introduced her legislation.
Assembly Rep. David Murphy (R) – Lead Author
Friendly GOP Assembly Representatives named this guy as a possible supporter of medical cannabis reforms. I am starting to seriously doubt that.
Unfortunately, Republican Dave Murphy from Appleton has not sponsored any positive marijuana reform legislation since being elected to the State Assembly in 2012. During 2019, the Assembly Republicans circulated and pre-filed a bill for the 2020 legislative session to create a medical marijuana program in Wisconsin (Assembly Bill 750) which Assembly Rep. Murphy did not co-sponsor.
February 2019 he said he would “oppose any push to legalize recreational use”, but added he would support regulated medical marijuana if it ensures the safety of public roadways. Late in the 2019-20 session, a bi-partisan effort to decriminalize 10 grams or less of marijuana in Wisconsin was introduced that did not attract Murphy as a co-sponsor.
We thought he was going to see a primary challenger in the 2020 general election, but that did not happen and his candidate statements added more reasons he is opposed. Now 2024 is fast approaching.
Oct 2020 Murphy said he is against the legalization of recreational marijuana. He said he based his opinion on conversations with law enforcement officers, many of whom are against legalizing it. He pointed to issues in other states that have legalized recreational marijuana, such as California and Colorado. In those states, marijuana continues to be sold illegally, he alleges. Marijuana use can also impact worker productivity, Murphy said, which hurts the economy.
Rep Murphy said he would consider legalizing the drug for medical use. He did not co-sponsor or even blink at the 2021 Republican decriminalization bill early this year and now offers a bill to increase penalties for butane hash oil (BHO). I hope this moves any potential Republican challengers for this district to start his campaign now!
Assembly Rep. Rachael Cabral-Guevara (R) – Co-sponsor
As a candidate Cabral-Guevara said she 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.
Is her willingness to co-sponsor a bill to remove a schedule 1 drug like Kratom from controlled substance act is a sign of things to come. She continues to support cannabis reform in public when asked and the only thing left for her to do is work with her Republican colleagues to present an adult use bill for discussion. In the 2021-22 legislation session she was the only Republican to co-sponsor the version of medical cannabis allowing home grows and smoking products.
Rep. Robert Brooks (R) and Rep. John Macco (R) are both co-sponsors in the assembly.
Rep. Wichgers (R) is absent from being a co-sponsor this session on the Kratom bill.
The Kratom legislation, Assembly Bill 393 and Senate Bill 445 were introduced in early September 2023. The bills are assigned to the same committees that are assigned the adult use cannabis / medical marijuana legislation. Yet neither committee chair has scheduled a public hearing on cannabis reform. The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety chaired by Senator Van Wanggaard have not yet taken up the Kratom bill yet, but the Assembly Committee chaired by Rep Swearingen held a public hearing on Kratom legalization in mid September.
You can review the Record of Committee Proceedings for Assembly Bill 393 and review hearing testimony / materials so that you better understand what goes on and is said/submitted by who during the public hearing process. It is vital to know procedure as things move slow, but happen fast when it comes to the legislation process. Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) has a few new Wisconsin featured speakers and one of them testified on this bill. CBD and Cannabis conversations did come up in the public hearing, but Chair Swearingen quickly reminded committee members that they are not allowed to discuss cannabis.
Also important to know is who is lobbying on for and against legislation. Of course, the various police organizations/associations and Wisconsin Medical Society are opposed. But I did see a familiar face in the American Kratom Association lobbyist line up. The face was non other than former Republican Majority Leader in the Assembly, Jim Steineke. He was the majority leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly from January 2015 until his resignation from the Assembly in July 2022. He had represented the Wisconsin’s 5th Assembly district since 2011.
Get on the horn and bug your legislators (especially Republicans) about these two issues and others that you care about. Help put the act in activism by taking action today!