Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) plans to include a series of sweeping marijuana reforms in his budget proposal this month, according to a report.
The newly sworn-in governor will push legislators to stop criminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, legalize medical cannabis, make it easier to access CBD products and expunge past convictions, the Wisconsin State Journal scooped on Sunday.
Here are the details of Gov. Evers’s marijuana plan, according to the newspaper:
Patients with a “debilitating medical condition,” such as cancer, AIDS, chronic pain, PTSD, Alzheimer’s, glaucoma and a number of other delineated conditions, would be able to get recommendations to use medical cannabis. The list of qualifying diseases and disorders could later be expanded by regulators.
A system of licensed cultivators, testers and retailers would be created, and home cultivation of up to 12 plants would be allowed. A spokesperson for the governor said that the proposal is largely modeled on that in neighboring Minnesota, except that Wisconsin patients would be able to smoke medical marijuana.
And whereas current state law allows patients with doctors’ recommendations to legally access cannabidiol (CBD) products to treat seizures, the budget proposal would remove the requirement for physician involvement.
When it comes to the broader decriminalization aspect of the governor’s plan, “all state penalties for possessing, manufacturing or distributing marijuana in the amount of 25 grams or less” would be removed, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
As to prior criminal records, Evers will propose creating a process through which convictions for possessing, manufacturing or distributing 25 grams or less of cannabis could be expunged.
Evers and several lawmakers will hold a press conference Monday morning to discuss the plan in more detail.
The governor teased last month that his budget, which is set to be formally unveiled on February 28, would likely include a “first step” toward legalizing medical cannabis.
While Evers endorsed medical marijuana and decriminalization of cannabis possession during his electoral campaign last year, he did not endorse outright legalization of marijuana for recreational use—only going so far as to say he would support putting it before voters in a referendum.
That reluctance ended last month when he said, “At the end of the day, do I favor legalization? Yes.”
“I personally would sign that bill.”
Gov. Evers on legalizing marijuana in Wisconsin: “I want to make sure that if and when we do legalize, and I think it’s more when than if — we have structures in place to make it a good marker in a place where small entrepreneurs can succeed.”
— WISN 12 NEWS (@WISN12News) January 16, 2019
The new plan, as reported by the Wisconsin State Journal, does not include full marijuana legalization or a referendum on the topic, however.
Broadly speaking, leaders in the state’s Republican-controlled Senate and Assembly appear skeptical of the governor’s marijuana reform ideas.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) said that he is “open to” medical cannabis, but that it would need to be narrowly tailored so it doesn’t end up leading to recreational legalization, which he opposes.
Vos criticizes @GovEvers comments last week saying he supports medical marijuana and would sign a recreational legalization bill if it came to his desk
Vos says he doesn’t want to create slippery slope where “there’s pot on every corner – I am not a supporter of legalization”
— Mark Sommerhauser (@msommerhauser) January 22, 2019
“I still don’t believe the support’s there within the Senate caucus to move in that direction,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) said.
Legalization supporters are pleased with the news.
“Gov. Evers’ proposal to include medical cannabis along with cannabis decriminalization in the state budget is the most significant cannabis policy reform plan ever proposed by a Wisconsin governor,” Gary Storck, a longtime marijuana reform advocate and publisher of the Wisconsin-based site Cannabadger, told Marijuana Moment. “As one who stumbled upon cannabis as a means to save my sight from glaucoma nearly 47 years ago, I’m thrilled and hope that lawmakers will adopt the budget with these provisions intact.”
In November, on the same ballots through which Evers was elected as governor, voters in 16 Wisconsin counties—representing nearly half the state’s population—overwhelmingly approved nonbinding referendums calling for marijuana reforms like legalization and medical access.
Santa Cruz Will Consider Decriminalizing Psychedelics This Week
Santa Cruz, California could be the latest in a wave of cities to decriminalize psychedelics, with a City Council hearing on the proposal scheduled for Tuesday.
The city vice mayor, Justin Cummings, recently introduced the resolution, which would make possession, use and cultivation of entheogenic substances such as psilocybin mushrooms and ayahuasca the city’s lowest law enforcement priority.
“Plants and fungi with psychedelic properties have been used for thousands of years by indigenous communities for spiritual and medical practices and many are considered illegal in our country,” Cummings told Marijuana Moment in an email. “As we begin to better understand the health benefits of these plants and fungi, we need to not treat the people who use and research these plants and fungi as criminals, and lower barriers for research, clinical treatment, and personal.”
“Santa Cruz has a number of organizations that conduct research on use of psychedelics to improve mental health and we as a community want to support these efforts,” he added.
The full City Council will hear a presentation from the advocacy group Decriminalize Santa Cruz and discuss the resolution on Tuesday. After that point, the measure will be referred to the Public Safety Commission for further consideration.
Text of the resolution emphasizes the medical potential of psychedelics and the ritualistic consumption of the substances throughout history.
If approved, that would mean the City Council “supports the possession, use, and/or cultivation of entheogenic psychoactive plants and fungi for personal adult use and clinical research and psychoactive practices, and declares that the investigation and arrest of individuals involved with the adult possession, use, or cultivation of entheogenic psychoactive plants and fungi listed on the federal schedule one list for personal use be among the lowest priorities for the city of Santa Cruz.”
The measure recommends that the use of psychedelics for medical or spiritual purposes “be done in consultation with, and under the supervision of trained/medical professionals.”
Additionally, it calls on the city manager to order Santa Cruz’s state and federal lobbyists to “work in support of decriminalizing all entheogenic psychoactive plants, and plant and fungi-based compounds listed in the Federal Controlled Substances Act.”
Psychedelics reform is moving ahead in jurisdictions throughout the U.S., with Denver becoming the first city to decriminalize so-called magic mushrooms in May. Oakland’s City Council followed suit, unanimously approving a resolution that expanding the decriminalization to a wide range of entheogenic substances.
Advocates are also working to advance decriminalization in Portland, Chicago, Berkeley and Dallas.
Meanwhile, California activists are pushing two separate statewide psychedelics initiatives: one that would decriminalize psilocybin across the board and another more recently filed measure that calls for broad legalization and commercial sales. Oregon activists are collecting signatures for a 2020 proposal that would legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes.
On the federal level, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) voiced support for decriminalizing psychedelics and promoting research into the substances in a video statement delivered at a Drug Policy Alliance conference last week.
Read text of the Santa Cruz psychedelic resolution below:
Sanders, Warren And Buttigieg Include Medical Marijuana In Veterans Day Plans
To commemorate Veterans Day, a number of presidential candidates are releasing plans focused on helping those who served the country in the military—and at least three major contenders are including marijuana-specific planks in their proposals.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), for example, wants to ensure that doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) “have the option of appropriately prescribing medical marijuana to their patients.”
(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)
Barbara Lee Honors Veterans Day With Call To Action On Marijuana Reform
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) marked Veterans Day by promoting a bill she introduced that would effectively legalize medical marijuana for military veterans.
In a press release and email blast for the national advocacy group NORML, the congresswoman discussed the need to expand access to cannabis for those who’ve served, stating that studies demonstrate the plant can treat symptoms of conditions that commonly afflict veterans such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Lee said that as the daughter of a veteran, the issue is particularly important for her.
“Congress must do more to ensure every veteran has a roof over their head, to ensure our veterans come home to a job that pays them a living wage, and to ensure our veterans have access to the health care services they deserve,” she said in the press release. “That includes improving veterans’ access to medical marijuana.”
“That’s why I introduced H.R. 1151, the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act, to empower veterans and their doctors to make informed decisions about the use of medical marijuana without political interference,” she said. “The current federal prohibition on cannabis is harmful and counterproductive. Politicians should never stand between our veterans and their health care.”
The Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act was introduced in February, and the House version currently has three cosponsors, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). The Senate companion version was filed by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and has two cosponsors, Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who signed on last week.
In her email for NORML on Monday, Lee said that cannabis prohibition has disproportionately impacted communities of color, but the policy also “falls hard upon is our nation’s veterans.”
The congresswoman noted that medical cannabis is widely used by veterans, yet doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) aren’t allowed to fill out recommendations, even in states where it’s legal. That would change under her legislation, she said.
Politicians should never stand between our veterans and their health care. That's why I introduced the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act to empower veterans and their doctors to make informed decisions about the use of medical marijuana without political interference.
— Barbara Lee (@BLeeForCongress) November 11, 2019
“This year, we can and must succeed in passing this essential legislation and protecting the rights of veterans to access medical treatment and serving those who served us,” she wrote, linking to a page where people can send a letter in support of her bill to their own representatives.
“Prohibiting VA doctors from recommending cannabis to qualifying patients, while continuing to rely on pharmaceuticals drugs like opioids as a treatment, is both a dangerous and illogical policy,” she said. “We know medical marijuana can be an effective and safe treatment for veterans and it is time to stop making them seek private, out-of-network physicians to access it.”
“I sponsored the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act because I know it will create an immediate positive impact on the lives of our veterans. Once enacted, veterans will be able to access medical marijuana treatment without the added challenge of accessing a private, non-VA physician. Together, we can gather enough support to pass this legislation, but it will only happen if enough Americans stand up and demand it. Please tell your member of Congress to support the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act.”
VA under the Trump administration has resisted marijuana reform legislation, with officials from the department testifying in a committee hearing in April that it opposed several proposals, including one that would require VA to conduct research into the medical benefits of cannabis for veterans.
Former VA Secretary David Shulkin, whose department also declined to take action on veterans cannabis issues, recently said that he’s in favor of increasing research into the plant’s therapeutic potential and blamed staff for misinforming him about what VA was capable of doing to that end while he was in office.
Lee, who serves as co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, also discussed cannabis reform in a video statement that was broadcast at a Drug Policy Alliance conference in St. Louis on Saturday. She didn’t address veterans issues specifically but rather spoke about broader reform efforts to federally legalize marijuana.
“We all know that the federal prohibition on marijuana has led to the overcriminalization and mass incarceration, especially in black and brown communities,” she told activists in the taped message. “That is why we need to ensure that as the cannabis movement marches forward, it does so hand-in-hand with efforts to address these racial inequities head on.”
“I think we’re at a pivotal moment for the cannabis movement. There is so much excitement for the progress we’ve made and for where we are pushing to go,” the congresswoman said. “If we do this right—by ensuring that we address the legacy of the failed war on drugs and center our work in restorative justice—there is no stopping us.
“I wish you success for your conference and the work ahead,” she said. “Stay woke.”
Photo courtesy of Rep. Barbara Lee.