After passing the State Senate Tuesday Nov. 7 in a 33-0 vote and a Wednesday hearing in the Assembly Agriculture committee, Wisconsin’s bipartisan hemp bill SB119/AB183 moved directly to a floor vote in the Assembly Thursday evening. The Assembly passed the bill in a unanimous 92-0 vote.
The vote did not come as fast as the Senate. A number of Assembly Democrats offered Assembly Amendment 1 to delete background check and criminal history search requirements from Senate Substitute Amendment 1, the version of SB110 passed by the Senate Nov. 7. Rep. Considine rose to offer the amendment. Reps. Gary Hebl, Katrina Shankland, Peter Barca and Fred Kessler also spoke in support of the amendment, which was voted down 60-32.
The bill now heads to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature. The Wisconsin hemp industry will be back 60 years after the state’s last legal hemp crop in 1957.
Passage of the bipartisan-sponsored, GOP-authored bill that would allow state farmers to grow and process hemp is nothing short of historic. The bill will also create an in-state source for CBD oil, possession of which was legalized with a doctor’s note by 2017 Wisconsin Act 4, enacted April 17, 2017.
GOP-sponsored legislation legalizing the growing of cannabis plants in Wisconsin seemed impossible not that long ago. In the Assembly hearing Nov. 8, Legacy Hemp LLC’s Ken Anderson said what defines hemp is .03 or less THC. Hemp is not a completely different plant but had to be portrayed that way to overcome opponent’s erroneous conflation of high-THC strains and hemp.
In the 2015-2016 session, several anti-cannabis Republican senators worked with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald to kill CBD legislation in a procedural move by adjourning the final senate session as a motion was made by Democrats to bring the bill to a vote.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported at the time that “GOP opponents of the proposal worry that it could be used by supporters of marijuana legalization such as certain tribal governments to force that outcome in federal court.”
Easy passage in both houses in the same week demonstrates the underlying issues that killed that bill have been overcome.
After the medical bill failed in 2010 when Democrats controlled the statehouse, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, speaking at a statewide Wisconsin NORML meeting at his late brother Ed’s Tee Pee Supper Club, was asked what it would take to pass a medical cannabis bill in Wisconsin. Thompson’s response was “pass the hemp bill first.”
Today state lawmakers completed that task. Wisconsin now joins 31 other states which have legalized hemp farming, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota. Wisconsin farmers will be planting hemp Spring 2018.