Wisconsin: Capitol press conference to launch new medical cannabis bill
By Gary Storck, Madison NORML/Special to Hemp News
MADISON - Wisconsin medical cannabis patients and advocates will have something extra to celebrate this holiday season with news that State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) has scheduled a press conference to announce a new attempt to pass a state medical cannabis law. The press conference is set for the State Capitol's Assembly Parlor (2nd Floor West) on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 1:00 pm.
Rep. Pocan's office has confirmed that he and State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee) will again be the lead sponsors of the legislation, LRB-2466/1, again dubbed the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act (JRMMA). They will also be sending a letter to their colleagues asking if they would like to cosponsor the legislation.
In the 2009-2010 session, the JRMMA received an 8-plus hour combined Senate/Assembly Health Committee public hearing that drew hundreds of patients. State organizations including the Wisconsin Nurses Association (WNA), Hospice Organization and Palliative Experts (HOPE) and the WI ACLU testified in support along with representatives of national groups including Patients Out of Time (POT), the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). Opposition testimony was limited to a handful of groups who support the status quo of arresting and jailing medical users including the Wisconsin Medical Society (SMS), and the Wisconsin Narcotics Officers Association (WNOA).
Despite the strong support at the hearing and in the legislature, as well as the urging of then-Gov. Jim Doyle for passage, the 2009-10 JRMMA died in committee without a vote.
Advocates say Wisconsinites have been far ahead of their elected representatives on this for decades. Advisory referendums asking if state lawmakers should pass medical cannabis legislation passed by wide margins in Dane County (75.49%) and River Falls (68%) in the Nov. 2010 election. Polling in 2002 and 2005 found statewide support in the 75%-80% range.
While the bill faces an uncertain future due to a very complicated political situation in Wisconsin, supporters say the need for medical cannabis for state Seniors, Veterans, chronically ill, people with disabilities the dying and others has only increased. Advocates also point to the additional benefits in the job creation power of establishing a medical cannabis industry in Wisconsin. Growth in the industry across the 16 states and District of Columbia where medical cannabis is allowed has created thousands of new green jobs and businesses while providing new revenue sources to cash strapped municipalities, counties and states.