Medical marijuana bill gets hearing after Legislature done for year

MADISON, Wis. — The Republican author of a bill to legalize medical marijuana says a hearing on her bill after the Legislature is done for the year is the best she could get from GOP leaders.

“I would have loved to hold a hearing a little bit earlier, but this is what leadership agreed to,” said Sen. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma.

Holding a hearing on the bill this late essentially guarantees the hearing, scheduled for April 20, will only be informational. The bill will have to be fully reintroduced when the next legislative session starts in 2023.

“I think it’s time to have this conversation and I’m very grateful we are having it,” she said. “I think this allows us to have the conversation around medical marijuana and what does medical marijuana mean.”

By and large, Wisconsinites are for legalizing marijuana. In the latest Marquette Law School Poll, 61% of Wisconsinites favored full legalization, while 31% opposed it. Broken down by party, even Republicans favored fully legalizing marijuana by a 51%-42% margin.

Legislative leaders have generally been opposed, however. When Felzkowski floated a similar bill in 2020 when she was in the Assembly, the bill never got a hearing.

“There’s still Republicans who are very concerned about the drug problem in the state,” she said. “This is where education comes in.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has indicated he would be open to medical marijuana in a pill form — that couldn’t be smoked. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said he does not support legalization without approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Felzkowski’s bill would create a board to oversee the regulation of medical marijuana in the state. Consumption would be limited to a liquid, oil, pill, or tincture or in a form that is applied topically.

In contrast, Democrats are pushing for broader legalization.

“The bill I’ve been working on for five sessions now is a bill that would fully legalize cannabis for responsible adult usage as well as have medicinal components in it,” said Sen. Melissa Agard, D-Madison.

She applauded Felzkowski for moving forward with the legislation but bemoaned the slow progress on the policy.

“The people of Wisconsin are frankly tired of the rhetoric of politics being involved, they just want us to get it done,” she said.