Rep. Sargent announces cannabis legalization bill in Capitol press conference

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Melissa Sargent speaks at April 13 press conference announcing her new legalization bill. (Copyright 2015 Cannabadger.com)

State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) announced today at a 10:30 am press conference in the Capitol’s Assembly Parlor that she is sponsoring legislation to tax and regulate adult use of cannabis that also creates a medical cannabis program for Wisconsin.

While historically, most if not all Wisconsin cannabis law reform legislation has been introduced later in the session, after the state budget has been dealt with, it is significant that Rep. Sargent has chosen to roll out the bill in April, just a few months into the new 2015-2016 legislative session. By contrast, AB810, her bill from last session was introduced Feb. 24, 2014, close to the end of the last session.

The new legislation, currently known as LRB-0188 as it awaits introduction, builds on last session’s AB810. LRB-0188 addresses stakeholder concerns about last session’s bill and now includes language to create a medical cannabis state registry. Another major change spurred by citizen input is that LRB-0188 also allows for personal cultivation of up to 12 cannabis plants, unlike AB810. Other provisions address driving under the influence and cannabis0unfused foods.

LRB-0188’s provisions and changes are summarized in the bill analysis:

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau

Current law prohibits a person from manufacturing, distributing, or delivering marijuana; possessing marijuana with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or deliver it; possessing or attempting to possess marijuana; using drug paraphernalia; or possessing drug paraphernalia with the intent to produce, distribute, or use a controlled substance. This bill changes state law so that state law permits both recreational use of marijuana and medical use of marijuana.

First, with respect to recreational use of marijuana, this bill changes state law to permit a Wisconsin resident who is over the age of 21 to possess no more than one-half an ounce of marijuana and to permit a nonresident of Wisconsin who is over the age of 21 to possess no more than a quarter ounce of marijuana. Generally, a person who possesses more than the maximum amount he or she is allowed to possess, but not more than 28 grams of marijuana is subject to a civil forfeiture not to exceed $1,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 90 days or both. A person who possesses more than 28 grams of marijuana is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, except that, if the person takes action to hide the amount of marijuana he or she has and the person has in place a security system to alert him or her to the presence of law enforcement, a method of intimidation, or a trap that could injure or kill a person approaching the area containing the marijuana, the person is guilty of a Class I felony.

This bill prohibits the sale for recreational use of product intended for human consumption that contains marijuana or marijuana extracts and that is edible. This bill prohibits the sale of marijuana for recreational use via mail, telephone, or Internet. A person who violates either of these prohibitions is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. This bill prohibits the use of marijuana in public. A person who violates this prohibition is subject to a civil forfeiture of not more than $100. This bill also eliminates the prohibition on possessing or using drug paraphernalia that relates to marijuana consumption.

This bill also creates a process by which a person may obtain a permit to sell marijuana for recreational use and pay a tax equal to 25 percent of the sales price. Under this bill, a person who does not have a permit to sell marijuana may not sell, distribute, or transfer marijuana, or possess marijuana with the intent to sell or distribute it. A person who violates the prohibition is guilty of a Class I felony except that the felony classification increases to a Class H felony if the person sells, distributes, or transfers the marijuana to a person who is under the age of 21 (minor) and the person is at least three years older than the minor. This bill prohibits a permittee from selling, distributing, or transferring marijuana to a minor and from permitting a minor to be on premises for which a permit is issued. If a permittee violates one of those prohibitions, the permittee may be subject to a civil forfeiture of not more than $500 and the permit may be suspended for up to 30 days. Under this bill, a minor who does any of the following is subject to a forfeiture of not less than $250 nor more than $500: procures or attempts to procure marijuana from a permittee; falsely represents his or her age to receive marijuana from a permittee; knowingly possesses marijuana for recreational use; or knowingly enters any premises for which a permit has been issued without being accompanied by his or her parent, guardian, or spouse who is at least 21 years of age.

In addition, under this bill, a person may obtain a permit for a $250 fee to cultivate no more than 12 marijuana plants at one time. A permit is valid for one year and may be renewed. A person without a permit who cultivates plants, and the number of plants is not more than 12, is subject to a civil forfeiture that is no more than twice the fee to obtain a permit. If any person cultivates more than 12 plants at one time but not more than 24, the person is subject to a civil forfeiture not to exceed $1,000 or imprisonment not to exceed 90 days or both. If any person cultivates more than 24 plants at one time, the person is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor, except that, if the person takes action to hide the number of plants he or she has and the person has in place a security system to alert him or her to the presence of law enforcement, a method of intimidation, or a trap that could injure or kill a person approaching the area containing the plants, the person is guilty of a Class I felony.

With respect to the medical use of marijuana, this bill changes state law to permit a person registered with the Department of Health Services (DHS) to use marijuana for medical use to alleviate the symptoms or effects of a debilitating medical condition or treatment. A person’s primary caregiver also may acquire, possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for a person registered with DHS if it is not practicable for the person to acquire, possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana independently or the person is under the age of 18.

The bill requires DHS to establish a registry for persons who use marijuana for medical use. Under the bill, a person may apply for a registry identification card by submitting to DHS a signed application, a written certification by the person’s physician that the person has or is undergoing a debilitating medical condition or treatment and that the potential benefits of the person’s use of tetrahydrocannabinols would likely outweigh the health risks for the person, and a registration fee of not more than $150. DHS must verify the information and issue the person a registry identification card. A registry identification card is generally valid for two years and may be renewed. DHS may not disclose that it has issued to a person a registry identification card, or information from an application for one, except to a law enforcement agency for the purpose of verifying that a person possesses a valid registry identification card. This bill also requires DHS to promulgate a rule listing other jurisdictions that allow the medical use of marijuana by a visiting person or allow a person to assist with a person’s medical use of marijuana. This bill treats documents issued by these entities the same as registry identification cards issued by DHS.

The bill requires DHS to license and regulate nonprofit corporations, known as compassion centers, that distribute or deliver marijuana or drug paraphernalia or possess or manufacture marijuana or drug paraphernalia with the intent to deliver or distribute to facilitate the medical use of marijuana. This bill prohibits compassion centers from being located within 500 feet of a school, prohibits a compassion center from distributing to a person more than 12 live marijuana plants and three ounces of usable marijuana (maximum medicinal amount), and prohibits an organization from possessing a quantity that exceeds, by an amount determined by DHS, the total maximum medicinal amount of marijuana of all of the persons it serves. An applicant for a license must pay an initial application fee of $250, and a compassion center must pay an annual fee of $5,000. This bill also requires DHS to register entities as tetrahydrocannabinols-testing laboratories. The laboratories must test marijuana for contaminants; research findings on the use of medical marijuana; and provide training on safe and efficient cultivation, harvesting, packaging, labeling, and distribution of marijuana, security and inventory accountability, and research on medical marijuana.

Finally, under current law, a person may not operate a vehicle with a detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance, which includes delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in his or her blood, regardless of impairment. Penalties for violating this provision increase with the number of violations. Under this bill, a person may not operate a vehicle with a THC concentration of 5.0 ng/mL or more, instead of a detectable amount, in his or her blood. This bill does not change the penalty structure.

This bill changes state law regarding marijuana. It does not affect federal law, which generally prohibits persons from manufacturing, delivering, or possessing marijuana and applies to both intrastate and interstate violations.

For further information see the state and local fiscal estimate, which will be printed as an appendix to this bill.”

LRB-0188 is currently being circulated by Rep. Sargent’s office for cosponsors. Last session’s bill, AB810, was cosponsored by Democratic State Representatives Todd Ohnstad (D-Kenosha), Terese Berceau (D-Madison) , Fred Clark (D-Baraboo), Sondy Pope (D-Cross Plains) and Brett Hulsey (I-Madison) along with Senator Nikiya Harris (D-Milwaukee). Reps. Clark and Hulsey have since left the legislature.

Supporters hope that this bill will see bipartisan support. Joining Rep. Sargent at the press conference was Joe Erato of the Wisconsin Cannabis Project (WICP). The WICP has been reaching out to conservatives for support on this issue.

Once the bill has been circulated it will be officially introduced and given a bill number. Cannabadger will be following it.

 

 

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