A bipartisan group of lawmakers is touting a bill seeking to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin.
The bill, from Republican Sen. Patrick Testin, Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach and Rep. Chris Taylor, is the first bipartisan effort on the topic since 2001. It was circulated for cosponsors on Friday.
Testin, in a statement, said his grandfather, who battled cancer, made "the decision to go outside the law to seek treatment with medical marijuana," a decision that "restored his appetite, and I believe it added months to his life."
"Doctors and patients, not government, should decide if cannabis is the right treatment," the Stevens Point Republican said.
Under the bill, a patient with a qualifying condition would need their regular physician to request a registry identification card on their behalf from the Department of Health Services, which would be required to establish a medical cannabis registry. Only those with medical conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer's, post-traumatic stress disorder and other medical conditions could qualify.
The bill would also require potential medical marijuana producers, processors or dispensaries to get a license from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Production, and applicants would need to pay an up-front fee of $250 and an annual fee of $5,000 to operate. The agency would also need to register labs to conduct testing on the cannabis, and the language directs officials to promote and prioritize small, local operations.
Taylor, D-Madison, said in a statement that "nobody should be treated as a criminal for accessing the medicine they or their loved ones need."
"This is a long overdue compassionate law that will finally allow sick patients to access the medicine they need,” she said.
But the bill will face roadblocks in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said in a statement he wasn't on board with the legislation, adding it'll be "a tough sell to a majority of my caucus."
"Everyone knows that medical marijuana leads to legalized marijuana," he continued. "We’ve already seen that some states with easier access to marijuana have seen an increase in emergency room visits and impaired driving accidents."
A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the Rochester Republican is reviewing the bill and didn't provide any other comment. Vos has said he's open to the idea of legalizing medical marijuana.