Record number of pot bills went nowhere in legislature

Wisconsin lawmakers introduced a record number of bills – 13 in all – pertaining to cannabis law reform in the 2015-2016 session, ranging from proposals regulating medical use, adult use, industrial hemp, cannabidiol-rich cannabis (CBD), cannabis decriminalization and removing the automatic felony for second offense pot possession. The main CBD legislation was sponsored by majority Republicans but had broad Democratic support. The industrial hemp bill, sponsored by Democrats, included one GOP cosponsor, with the remainder of Democratic-sponsored bills having none.

While several bills were introduced in February and March 2016 and thus were basically out of time before they were submitted, other legislation was deliberately introduced early in the session with the hope that majority Republicans would use the extra time  to consider cosponsoring and to schedule public hearings as they chair all committees as the majority party.

Instead, outside of the CBD bill, the session proceeded like previous sessions since 2011 when total GOP control began with all Democratic-sponsored bills dying in committee without a hearing or a vote.

A good example of this pattern can be found in Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc). who chairs the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety. And as in previous sessions, all pot bills sent to his committee were dead on arrival, as seen with AB224 and AB246 this session. Despite public support and changing attitudes in other states and abroad, it has been decided there will be no serious consideration of the cannabis issue as long as Republicans maintain their majorities.

And while hemp is not usually considered a rabid partisan issue, the GOP chair of the committee the hemp bill was assigned to twice ignored letters from the Democratic sponsor requesting a public hearing.

But, while the CBD bill did get committee hearings and votes in both houses and passed the Assembly, it was killed by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) at the request of cannabigot Senators Leah Vukmir, Mary Lazich and Duey Stroebel in the last moments of the final Senate session and went undefended by its GOP lead senate sponsor Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine). Backers say the bills will be back Jan. 2017 when next session convenes, but if the GOP retains control, will next session be any different for any cannabis legislation?

Here’s the bills in order of introduction in each house by bill number with links to the bills and bill history on the Wisconsin Legislature website:

Relating to: possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana and distribution and delivery of marijuana. (FE)

Relating to: growing and processing industrial hemp, granting rule-making authority, and making an appropriation. (FE)

Relating to: definition of tetrahydrocannabinols.

Relating to: marijuana possession, regulation of marijuana distribution and cultivation, medical marijuana, operating a motor vehicle whi…

Relating to: definition of tetrahydrocannabinols.

Relating to: possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana and distribution and delivery of marijuana. (FE)

Relating to: growing and processing industrial hemp, granting rule-making authority, and making an appropriation. (FE)

Relating to: production and possession of cannabidiol for treatment of a seizure disorder and providing a penalty. (FE)

Relating to: medical use of marijuana, the regulation of marijuana distribution entities, requiring the exercise of rule-making authority…

Relating to: expungement of nonfelony possession of marijuana offenses. (FE)

2015 Assembly Bill 945

Relating to: repeat offenses of possession of marijuana.

Relating to: reclassifying certain felonies to misdemeanors and providing a criminal penalty. (FE)

Relating to: reclassifying or changing penalties for certain crimes and providing a criminal penalty. (FE)

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