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Wisconsin Governor Says He’ll ‘Absolutely’ Sign Limited GOP Medical Marijuana Bill, Unless It Contains ‘Poison Pills’



The Democratic governor of Wisconsin says he’d be inclined to sign a restrictive medical marijuana legalization bill that GOP legislative leaders are planning to introduce this month, as long as there are no “poison pills” baked into the proposal.

In a series of interviews this week, Gov. Tony Evers (D) emphasized that he still believes the state should enact comprehensive adult-use legalization, but he’s willing to take the more modest step of signing limited medical cannabis legislation into law in the interim.

“I would think that getting it all done in one fell swoop would be more thoughtful as far as meeting the needs of Wisconsinites that have asked for it,” he told The Associated Press. “But if that’s what we can accomplish right now, I’ll be supportive of that.”

GOP leaders have made clear they will not entertain a conversation about adult-use legalization, declining to even hold hearings on Democratic reform proposals over multiple sessions. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) said the forthcoming medical marijuana measure his caucus crafted is designed to avoid a scenario where it becomes widely available for recreational use.

“Do I think we need to consider recreational marijuana? Of course,” the governor told News 3 Now. “I’ve been for it, so are a majority of the people Wisconsin. But if this is a step in the right direction, let’s let’s make it happen.”

Evers cautioned, however, that he would not sign a bill that contains “poison pills,” referring to unrelated or extreme provisions that could be inserted into otherwise acceptable legislation.

While the Assembly speaker said Republicans reached a consensus on the yet-to-be-unveiled bill following months of intra-party discussions, it remains to be seen whether Democratic lawmakers who’ve pushed for comprehensive legalization will go along with the incremental reform.

Vos said last month that he’s “pretty confident” the legislature will approve the medical marijuana legislation, even if it’s “just Republican votes” that get it across the finish line.

Despite the expected limitations of the bill, Evers suggested that he’s encouraged the speaker appears to have “changed his mind” on the overall idea of cannabis reform.

“If that’s the case, I’m ready for that,” the governor told TMJ4, adding “absolutely I would” signed the measure even if it’s just a “step.”

“You know, the state of Wisconsin, any polling forever is showing that their people are okay with recreational marijuana and medicinal, and so let’s have the conversation and see where we end up,” he said.

“Do I think that recreational marijuana should be part of the conversation? Yes,” Evers separately told CBS 58. “But let’s start with medical and see what happens.”

Again, however, his support is conditional. He told the Wisconsin State Journal that he’s only likely to sign it if it’s a “bill that’s not filled with poison pills.”

While the text of the measure hasn’t been released yet, the speaker has previewed certain provisions, detailing how it will only provide for limited medical cannabis reform, allowing patients with serious conditions such as cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), HIV and chronic pain to access products in pill and oil form.

Vos said it’s being modeled after a conservative medical marijuana law that neighboring Minnesota enacted before adopting more expansive legalization this year.

The GOP leader has previously put forward timelines for the bill’s introduction that didn’t materialize, including an unmet goal to file the legislation by this past fall. He’s acknowledged that there’s been frustration around the delay, but he said it was necessary to build a large enough coalition to pass the measure within his caucus.

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Meanwhile, Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R), who has previously filed limited medical cannabis legislation, has said that Democratic-led efforts to push adult-use legalization have complicated Republicans’ work on modest reform.

Sen. Melissa Agard (D), who is sponsoring a recreational legalization bill again this session, has challenged that position, pointing out throughout the year that the GOP majority sets the agenda and could advance medical marijuana reform at any point but have yet to do so.

Agard, who recently stepped down as Senate minority leader to pursue a run for Dane County executive, told Marijuana Moment last month that “the devil is in the details with all policy making,” and “actions speak louder than words.”

That followed remarks from Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R), who said last month there’s “potentially” a path to pass a medical marijuana bill in the 2024 session—but it’d have to be strictly limited.

Agard has separately urged the public to pressure their representatives to hold a hearing on her reform legislation.

Evers, for his part, recently said that the GOP legislature’s inaction over recent years has meant Wisconsin “is losing out to our neighboring states” that have enacted the reform.

“It’s high time we legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in Wisconsin much like we do with alcohol,” said Evers, who granted another round of pardons, including dozens issued for people with prior marijuana convictions, in November.

The state Department of Revenue released a fiscal estimate of the economic impact of Agard’s legalization bill in November, projecting that the reform would generate nearly $170 million annually in tax revenue.

Also, a legislative analysis requested by the minority leader estimated that Wisconsin residents spent more than $121 million on cannabis in Illinois alone last year, contributing $36 million in tax revenue to the neighboring state.

Despite all that, the conservative legislature has long resisted even incremental reform—stripping marijuana proposals from the governor’s budget requests, for example.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of Wisconsin lawmakers formally introduced a measure to decriminalize marijuana possession last month. Sponsors hope the limited, noncommercial reform will win enough support to clear the state’s GOP-controlled legislature and become law in parallel with the separate medical cannabis bill.

Minnesota Adds New Marijuana Legalization Advisory On Criminal Records While Officials Are ‘Hard At Work’ On Expungements

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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