Wisconsin’s historic new bipartisan cannabis decriminalization bill Senate Bill 318 includes a number of sponsors of cannabis law reform legislation not seen before the current legislative session. Not only is the lead Assembly sponsor a Republican, Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake), there are five other GOP cosponsors, Kathleen Bernier (R-Lake Hallie), Reps. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), Paul Tittl (R-Manitowoc) and Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh). Jarchow and his five GOP colleagues are also sponsors of the bipartisan industrial hemp legislation AB183/SB119. An interesting note is that this is the first session Schraa’s Democratic colleague Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) has sponsored pot-related legislation, sponsoring the medical bill AB75 and SB318.
SB318 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, chaired by Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine). The vice-chair is Senator Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) with Senators Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), Fred Risser (D-Madison) and Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) also members. While Stroebel is a cannabigot who was the only vote against the CBD bill passed earlier this year, Risser and Taylor are both sponsors of this bill, and in fact, this is Risser’s first pot-related bill in 38 years. Testin, who defeated another cannabigot, Democratic medical pot opponent Julie Lassa in Nov. 2016, is also a sponsor of the bipartisan industrial hemp bill AB183/SB119 and Wanggaard was a sponsor of the CBD bill. If the bill can get a hearing, and that’s a big if, the votes could be there to pass it out of committee. Then it would be up to Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) whether it gets a floor vote.
While Gov. Scott Walker is a steadfast opponent of anything beyond the weak CBD law passed this year, the GOP side of the legislature appears to be slowly warming to supporting cannabis-related bills. Republicans are no longer seeing cannabis as a negative but as a way to connect with constituents and get votes. Should Walker lose his reelection bid in Nov. 2018, Wisconsin could finally join the long list of states who are rejecting cannabis prohibition and embracing the benefits of taxing and regulating the cannabis plant.
UPDATED 2017-06-25 11:22:38 AM to add Rep. Kathleen Bernier (R-Lake Hallie).