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Erpenbach/Taylor set Monday press conference for MMJ bill and referendum

Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) have scheduled a press conference for 10:00am Monday, Feb. 6 in the Capitol’s Assembly Parlor to formally launch their new medical cannabis legislation along with their resolution to place a statewide advisory referendum about medical cannabis on Nov. 2018 ballots. The Assembly Parlor is located off to the left of the Assembly Chambers, on the second floor of the west wing in the State Capitol. Several veterans will be speaking at the press conference with more standing by in support, and veterans are encouraged to attend.

Here is the proposed advisory referendum language:

Question 1: “Medical Marijuana. Should the state of Wisconsin allow individuals with debilitating medical conditions to use and safely access marijuana for medical purposes if those individuals have a written recommendation from a Wisconsin physician?”

Here is the LRB-0564/1 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 creates a medical use defense to such marijuana-related prosecutions and forfeiture actions for persons who are registered with the Department of Health Services as having specified debilitating medical conditions or treatments and, if applicable, their primary caregivers.  This bill also prohibits the arrest or prosecution of such persons for those offenses.  The defense and prohibition do not apply under certain circumstances, such as 1) if the person does not have a valid registry identification card; 2) if the amount of marijuana involved is more than 12 marijuana plants and three ounces of marijuana leaves or flowers; 3) if, while under the influence of marijuana, the person drives a motor vehicle or engages in any other conduct that endangers the health or well being of another person; or 4) if the person smokes marijuana on a school bus or public transit or on school premises.

Under the bill, DHS must establish a registry for persons who use marijuana for medical use.  Under the bill, a person may apply to DHS for a registry identification card.  DHS must issue a qualified applicant a registry identification card unless, in the previous ten years, the applicant was serving a sentence or on probation for certain felony convictions.  Except for law enforcement purposes, DHS must keep registry information and applications confidential.

Under the bill, DHS also must license and regulate dispensaries to facilitate the medical use of marijuana.  This bill prohibits dispensaries from being located within 500 feet of a school, prohibits a dispensary from distributing to one person more than an allowable amount of marijuana, and prohibits a dispensary from possessing an excessive quantity of marijuana as determined by the number of persons it serves or by DHS.  An applicant for a license must pay an initial application fee of $250, and a dispensary must pay an annual fee of $5,000.

This bill requires DHS to promulgate rules to allow entities to grow marijuana and distribute marijuana to dispensaries.  This bill also requires DHS to register entities as tetrahydrocannabinols-testing laboratories.

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.

Sen. Erpenbach included this statement about the press conference in his online weekly newsletter:

Medical Marijuana Legislation Unveiled Monday February 6th – Senator Jon Erpenbach and Representative Chris Taylor will unveil their medical cannabis proposal Monday in the State Capitol. The two will also introduce a statewide referendum this session. Although just an advisory referendum, allowing voters to provide guidance to a Legislature that is behind the times on an issue certainly cannot hurt. Senator Erpenbach has advocated for medical marijuana for seriously ill patients in Wisconsin for years and unfortunately this is an issue where the Legislature is far behind the public. 28 states now allow patients to use medical marijuana.

I’m hoping on being in the Assembly Parlor Monday morning, full of new hopes but fully aware both proposals may find a mostly chilly reception from majority Republicans. One thing I do know that it will happen eventually, no matter how long it takes. I first started talking to Sen. Erpenbach about medical cannabis in 1998 and he has been sponsoring bills since 2009. Chris Taylor took the torch from Rep. Mark Pocan, after he moved on to Congress in 2013. I’m grateful to them and other lawmakers who continue to push the issue, like Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison), who will be rolling out her hybrid medical/adult use legislation again in the coming months. The people have been far ahead of lawmakers for a long time. Now, albeit slowly, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle seem to be starting to listen.

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