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Wisconsin Republicans appear to be at an impasse over medical marijuana legalization plan

Jon Plumer
Posted at 10:26 AM, Jan 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-17 11:26:53-05

MADISON (AP) — Wisconsin Republicans appear to be at an impasse over a proposal to legalize medical marijuana.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Tuesday that he would not compromise with state Senate Republicans to address their concerns with his proposal. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu last week said the bill's proposed creation of state-run dispensaries was a “nonstarter.”

Vos said at a news conference that “months and months of negotiations” resulted in a “very detailed bill” he proposed that has the minimum 50 votes needed to pass among Republicans.

“Taking and renegotiating the bill means we probably lose votes in our caucus,” Vos said. “So I’d rather get us through to keep the promise we made, which is to have a comprehensive bill that can actually become law as opposed to an ethereal idea that maybe somebody could support someday but it never actually makes it anywhere.”

LeMahieu last week said he was open to making changes to the bill in an effort to find a compromise that could pass in the Senate.

The highly restrictive bill would limit medical marijuana to severely ill people with chronic diseases such as cancer and allow for it to be dispensed at just five state-run locations. Smokable marijuana would not be allowed.

The proposal would limit the availability of marijuana to people diagnosed with certain diseases, including cancer, HIV or AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, severe muscle spasms, chronic pain or nausea, and those with a terminal illness and less than a year to live.

Wisconsin remains an outlier nationally. Thirty-eight states have legalized medical marijuana and 24 have legalized recreational marijuana. The push for legalization in Wisconsin has gained momentum as its neighbors have loosened their laws.

The measure would need to pass the Senate and Assembly and be signed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to become law. Evers, who like many Democrats is a proponent of full legalization, said this month that he would support medical marijuana only but was noncommittal on the Assembly’s plan.