April 20, also known as 4/20, is a day that has come to symbolize the celebration of cannabis. People erroneously connect 4/20 to the number of chemical compounds in the marijuana plant and to police radio codes for cannabis. Whatever the day’s origins, it has taken on importance for the movement to end cannabis prohibition. In the state of Wisconsin, where a majority of residents support legalization, the Legislature remains inactive on the issue. During the last legislative session, the only bill related to cannabis taken up by the Republican-controlled Legislature was a bill to further criminalize cannabis extracts including butane hash oil. Nevertheless, at 10 a.m. on the fabled day of haze, the Senate Committee on Insurance, Licensing & Forestry will hold a hearing on a medicinal cannabis bill.
The bill, authored by Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma), would legalize medicinal use of cannabis under specific conditions. Patients would need to be registered, and the cannabis must be in the form of a liquid, oil, pill, tincture or topical ointment. The restrictions put Wisconsin out of step with 37 states that allow medicinal cannabis and another 18 that have fully legalized the plant. The bill also establishes a medical cannabis regulatory committee, which Felzkowski has said would take the process of regulation out of the Legislature’s hands.
Steps toward ending cannabis prohibition in Wisconsin have been slow and difficult. Felzkowski has attempted to introduce bills to stimulate a conversation about cannabis among Republican officials in the past. Wednesday would mark the first time a medicinal cannabis bill would get a public hearing. But the Legislature has adjourned until 2023, meaning no new laws will pass before then. As proposals from both sides of the aisle have failed to motivate the Republican-controlled Legislature, some advocates and public officials have pushed to lower existing penalties locally.
Cannabis is essentially decriminalized in the city of Madison, and amounts of 28 grams or under have been deprioritized by law enforcement elsewhere. The changes aren’t consistent, however, and in some areas stiff penalties can still result from cannabis possession. Gov. Tony Evers proposed fully legalizing cannabis and allocating tax revenues for community investments. The proposal failed to garner support in the Legislature, however.
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