Medical marijuana advocates encouraged after Wisconsin Assembly speaker says he’s ‘open’ to legalization

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MADISON — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he's open to legalizing medical marijuana in Wisconsin, shocking at least one other Republican leader at the state Capitol and exciting marijuana advocates.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

"I'm not an expert on medical marijuana, but I certainly have no problem saying, if you have a sincere medical need and your doctor prescribes it, and it's done under the normal process of any other opiate, I would be open to that," Vos said.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald

Vos' counterpart in the state Senate, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, seemed shocked.

"He said that?" Fitzgerald responded when a reporter asked him for comment.  No, I'm not that far. I have no idea where the caucus would be, but I'm certainly not there personally."

Vos said he would not offer medical marijuana legislation and didn't expect such a bill to advance in the Assembly. Nevertheless, advocates were encouraged.

"Maybe this year, 2017, 2018, we could actually see something happen with medical marijuana. If we already have some of the Republican leadership in favor of it -- or at least open-minded to it -- then that's our foot in the door and we've just got put the public pressure on," said Eric Marsch, Executive Director of Southeastern Wisconsin NORML.

Twenty-eight states have legalized medical marijuana in some form, including the Republican states of Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana in 2016.

Vos compared a doctor prescribing medical marijuana to the legal practice of prescribing opiate painkillers. Many state officials have said that Wisconsin has an opiate crisis.

Fitzgerald said he did not see medical marijuana as a way to curb the opiate addiction issue.

"I think it’s just the opposite," he said. "I think we need to continue to come up with tools to help law enforcement, and to some extent, maybe curtail the ability of medical professionals to prescribe."

Eric Marsch, Executive Director of Southeastern Wisconsin NORML

Eric Marsch, Executive Director of Southeastern Wisconsin NORML

Republican leaders say it is more likely that a separate issue -- legalizing CBD oil -- will pass the Legislature this year after stalling in the previous session.

The oil is a potentially life-saving treatment for children with seizures. It contains a trace amount of THC, the active chemical in marijuana.

Wisconsin legalized it in 2014 but, because of the way the law was written, parents say it's currently impossible to get access to the treatment. They've been asking lawmakers to try again, but the issue died in 2016 in the Senate.

"I've been told we'll have a little bit of a break there. And if that's the case, I think the votes are there in the Senate," Fitzgerald said. He said there had been a compromise among his members but didn't provide details.

Vos said he wanted the Legislature to pass expanded CBD oil legislation this year.

"Let’s try to get that done, show it’s not going to change the world – except for the families that need it," he said. "It’s not going to be a negative, as some people in the Senate have led us to believe that it would be."

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17 comments

  • Scott W

    Prohibition has been an abject, undeniable FAILURE. Legalize it, tax it regulate it Wisconsin! Thank you Speaker Vos for taking the first baby step out of the Dark Ages. That takes courage and conviction and I commend you. It’s past time that we start treating cannabis as a public health and safety issue, much like alcohol and tobacco and not a criminal justice one like old timey dinosaurs and Prohibitionists like Mr. Fitzgerald want to continue doing. Prohibition does not work. What put the beer barons and gangsters out of business during alcohol prohibition? Was it the police? Was it laws? No. We ended prohibition! Let’s embrace the free market vs the black market, individual liberty and responsibility and legize cannabis for responsible adult use, then tax it and regulate it.

    • wheresthebeef

      Agreed – legalize it already! Wisconsin is missing out on MILLIONS in tax revenue for marijuana sales. Look at how much money Colorado is raking in. We could use a slice of that pie.

      • JP79

        In CO they hit a billion….. they state of WI could give each school district $100,000.00 a year and still keep a couple million for itself every year….. Money people, its all about money and we could benefit the kids from the SinTax

  • Peter

    Wisconsin should in the least decriminalize small time possession statewide like Minnesota did in the 1970 ‘s. Right now, a first time, small amount possession charge is up to a $1,000 fine and 6 months in jail!? Second time is up to $10,000 fine and 3.5 years in jail. That is the epitome of reefer madness! I believe even Attorney General Schimel agrees that we should decriminalize statewide now.

  • Stu

    Yes we should legalize. It’s a basic civil rights issue. People who choose to vape some herb should not be treated like crinals or second class citizens anymore while drunks are coddled as a special interest group by politicians via the most liberal drunk driving laws in the country and some of the lowest alcohol taxes in the country. Alcoholism is accepted as “normal” in Wisconsin but this beautiful healing herb is maligned and crinalizef. It’s 2017 politicians. You need to wake up. Prohibition has not worked. Nobody wants it anymore except entrenched special intetests who make money of it (police, private prison industry) or stand to lose when it is legalized (alcohol industry, big pharma). To guys like Fitzgerald all I can say is, you don’t have to personally like it. You don’t have to do it. You just have to see that Prohobition has been a total failure and that it doesn’t work. You are not “condoning or okaying anything”.bPeople are doing it anyways right now and have been for decades. We spent trillions and 40 years waging this war and we lost. The people are sick of it. And just like with alcohol prohibition if you don’t have the people on your side you can’t win. Write your representatives and tell them to legalize people. They aren’t reading this. Write them!

  • mkenorthshore

    I have no problem legalizing pot as long as a first-time OWI bust results in jail time and a six-month license suspension.

      • Barrington

        It’s not. Drunks and drunk drivers get a pass in Wisconsin. That’s why the state has the highest rates of alcoholism and drunk driving. The cops are out hunting down violent hippies with weed playing their bongos at home…

    • Jae

      That’s a flawed method until they have a test that PROVES someone has just smoked. Someone can be deemed “under the influence” even if they are not, since THC stored in fat cells and someone who just exercised can turn up positive even if they quit a month prior! So, someone who hasn’t smoked in weeks, could still end up with a positive result!
      I look like a POW b/c I can’t gain weight, have severe nerve death pain, and live in agony! I know if I had access, it would help me gain weight, get off more dangerous meds, and help with the nerve pain relief and muscle tension/spams, that is proven with Med MJ. I don’t want to leave my state, everyone I know, my support group and Drs, but I’ve waited about 9yrs for this to happen, and I’m at the point where if I want to live, and hopefully work again, I will be forced out of my state and away from everyone who does help me.

      Drs. don’t seem to be allowed to do their jobs b/c of gov insurance. I’m in the medical field and I know they can do far more than they are doing, and am very angry at the abusers and Drs who were running “pill mills.” To hear the DEA talk about not letting Drs write scripts for pain meds, is HURTING/KILLING real pain patients! My meds were reduced slowly and taken away and now it’s even more impossible for me to have any type of life b/c pain is out of control and thet DON”T CARE! I think they truly want me to die, rather than help get me well again to work, and I was very good at my career.

      I went through the stages of grief for the lost decade of my life due to incompetent Drs., and so b/c I go in with a positive attitude, they think nothing is wrong! I am ready to try for help in another country if I could afford it. Or go to Mayo or the NIH undiagnosed department.

      DEA-Walker, etc, Please stop punishing patients! I wouldn’t wish my pain on anyone, but I wish they could all spend two days in my shoes, they’d understand and be running to an ER!

  • Connie

    Vos is correct and on the right track. Scott Fitzgerald’s comments and failed “logic” get an F. That makes him F. Scott Fitzgerald minus the thoughtfulness and talent. Legalize !

  • Buck

    Somewhere in some uber sophisticated clandestine garden, somebody is currently creating a new hybrid strain of cannabis that they will name VOS as a way to say thank you to the Speaker. You can’t stop the great green tide of history. Marijuana is as Sconny as brats, cheese and the Packers!

  • Vicky View

    I’m disappointed with Fitzgerald, with whom I have spoken with on this issue before. As a parent of an adult w/uncontrolled Epilepsy and RNS (a computer/defibrilllator installed in his brain), Opiates, Benzos, & Narcocotics are the only prescribed options. MM would be a step down, and possibly more effective with less devastating side effects. For adults with E this is a critical issue as they have less surgical option available due to growth maturity of the brain plus they do not have the built services and care that a minor is entitled to by law. Fitzgerald, and the state of Wisconsin, need to do better for people with Epilepsy. And that is a lot of people!

    • Lance E.

      I am so sorry Wisconsin has failed you Vicky. The state has failed me and my family as well. It’s unconscionable and unacceptable. I know its not easy but in the worst case scenario you may need to consider leaving the state like my family and I were forced to do. Minnesota and Michigan have medical marijuana programs nearby. Obviously, Colorado or anywhere on the west coast now you can get the help and medicine you deserve. I hate to say it but your chances of being locked in a cage like an animal or criminal in Wisconsin are much higher than the chances of these compassionless prohibitionists in Wisconsin ever waking up on this issue. Best of luck to you.

      • Vicky View

        Thanks. Wisconsin has no Level 5 hospital for Epilepsy so we go to Cleveland Clinic (No. 2 in the USA for Epilepsy treatment). Ohio/Kasich recently legalized forms of MM, but due to federal laws a doctor would still be subject to being charged felony counts if they prescribe MM. Yes, I have been (sometimes less than cordially) invited to leave the state for MM before. People with E suffer more seizures from stress. So moving being stressful, and leaving friends, family, community- a persons support structure – makes little sense. So does the federal government prohibiting doctors and science access to study benefits of a plant. No, these restrictive laws need to change. Get government out of the way of Epilepsy and science!

  • Hard worker

    I wish the State would direct more cops towards all the drunks and texting drivers and leave the mellow peaceful marijuana users alone. The drunks are the violent negligent belligerent ones. They and the texting distracted drivers are the ones killing people. As far as I am concerned you have the right to do whatever you want up until that right supercedes someone elses rights to do what they want. Thus no drunk driving, no texting and driving and no driving high. That’s fair. That’s safe. That’s freedom. Right now Wisconsin is clueless.

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