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Wisconsin Republican who sponsored decriminalization bill not seeking reelection

Wisconsin State Representative Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) a conservative Republican who sponsored bipartisan statewide cannabis decriminalization legislation in 2017, announced in a statement today he would not seek re-election to his state assembly seat this November. In January,  Jarchow lost a special Senate election for Sen. Sheila Harsdorf’s seat, to Democrat Patty Schachtner by 11 points, flipping control of a seat that had been held by a Republican for 17 years.

Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake)

Jarchow first announced his intentions to sponsor a decriminalization bill on the “State Reppin” radio show on Riverwest Radio hosted by State Reps. Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee) and David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) in January 2017.

Jarchow told Brostoff and Bowen on the show that he was looking at a $100 fine for 20 grams or less of cannabis, saying, “We will keep it illegal, but the penalty will be a $100 fine like a traffic violation.”

Ultimately Jarchow paired up with Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison) for 2017 Assembly Bill 409 / Senate Bill 318, which according to the Legislative Reference Bureau, would have reduced the penalty for possessing or attempting to possess not more than 10 grams of cannabis to a $100 fine and eliminated the felony if second or subsequent violations involve not more than 10 grams of marijuana.

The bill was historical not only in that it is Rep. Jarchow’s first time sponsoring a cannabis related bill but also the first cannabis related bill sponsored by Sen. Risser in 38 years.

In addition, the bill included five GOP cosponsors who had never sponsored cannabis reform legislation prior to  the 2017-2018 legislative session; Kathleen Bernier (R-Lake Hallie), Reps. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), Paul Tittl (R-Manitowoc) and Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh).

In May 2017, Jarchow told the Capital Times how he came to sponsor a cannabis decriminalization bill, saying he started thinking about the issue on the campaign trail in summer 2016, “I would hear from voters pretty regularly that they thought we needed to change course on marijuana policy.”

A subsequent Facebook town hall meeting, found 90 percent of those weighing in wanting a change, and a Spring 2017  survey of his district found 75 to 80 percent of more than 700 respondents “wanting to see a change in marijuana policies.”

The Cap Times also reported on Jarchow’s outlook on the bill’s chances of passage this session:

“Jarchow noted that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has shown interest in exploring a medical marijuana bill, which Jarchow said “gives me some hope.”

Jarchow said that while he’s hopeful for reform of the state’s marijuana laws in the long run, he’s not betting that he’ll garner the support from his GOP colleagues to get it passed in the near future.

“I’m not naïve to think that we are going to probably pass this and get it signed into law,” he said. “This to me is a first step. And what I’m hoping we achieve today is a little bit of public awareness of a bipartisan solution to a difficult problem, as well as maybe we could get a public hearing and we could flesh out some of these issues we’ve been talking about, some of these costs. That would help lead the way to further reforms.””

Jarchow joins a number of other lawmakers not running this November from both parties, including anti-cannabis State Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield), who is running for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). Hopefully Jarchow’s efforts toward statewide decriminalization, still elusive after more than 45 years of trying, will inspire other Republicans to seek cannabis law reforms.

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