On July 31, 2015, State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) introduced Senate Bill 221, the companion bill to AB228, introduced earlier this year, both which would end the requirement for a prescription to possess cannabidiol (CBD) oil in Wisconsin.
The new legislation became necessary after legislators passed a law in 2014 that legalized CBD oil in Wisconsin, but only with the approval of federal agencies. With CBD still federally classed as a Schedule One drug, physicians were unwilling to go through the federal red tape needed to provide it to patients.
SB221 was assigned to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, which is chaired by bill sponsor Wanggaard. As chair, it is up to Sen. Wanggaard to schedule a public hearing, which had not yet been done as of this writing. Vice-chair is Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa), a nurse and longtime vehement opponent of all things cannabis. Vukmir did break with tradition to join last year’s unanimous vote in favor of the CBD law this bill proposes to fix, but might be expected to oppose striking the prescription requirement.
The third Republican on the committee is Frank Lasee (R-DePere) and the two Democratic members are Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) and Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison). Sen. Taylor is a cosponsor and as the vote last session was unanimous, all three are on record as supporting some form of CBD legislation. But, even with the less restrictive language, once a public hearing is held, SB221 should pass the Senate committee by at least a 3-2 margin.
A hearing has already been held on the Assembly companion version, AB228, although there has not yet been a executive session and vote. The Wisconsin Medical Society and law enforcement groups oppose AB228/SB221 and testified against it at the Assembly hearing and no doubt will likewise be there to oppose it at the Senate hearing, when scheduled.
Still, with broad bipartisan cosponsorship in both houses and considering last year’s unanimous votes, I would expect AB228/SB221 to pass the full legislature once it clears the committees. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who with great fanfare, signed last year’s bill into law, is now an official candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. It will be interesting to see if he will agree to deleting the prescription requirement and signs it into law if it reaches his desk.
Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
Current law designates tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) as a schedule I controlled substance. Current law specifies that THC does not include cannabidiol (CBD oil) in a form without a psychoactive effect that is dispensed by a pharmacy or physician approved by the Controlled Substances Board or that is possessed by an individual who has documentation from a physician that the CBD oil is used for the treatment of a seizure disorder. This bill eliminates the requirement that, to be excluded from the definition of THC, the CBD oil must be dispensed by an approved pharmacy or physician or possessed by an individual with such documentation.