Wisconsin would Launch a Small, State-Run Medical Marijuana Program under GOP Proposal

Wisconsin would launch a small-scale, state-run medical marijuana program under a GOP proposal that lawmakers say will not lead to recreational usage.

The announcement comes as Wisconsin has become something of an island in the upper Midwest, where several neighboring states have legalized cannabis for full recreational usage. Nationwide, 38 states and the District of Columbia have some type of medical marijuana law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Under the proposal, the state would operate five medical dispensaries across the state, according to Rep. Jon Plumer, R-Lodi, who co-authored the plan.

Users would be limited to those with certain diagnosed medical conditions, such as cancer, seizure conditions, multiple sclerosis and severe chronic pain and nausea. State-licensed pharmacists would dispense the products, which would include edibles and oils, but not smokable products. Those products would use marijuana grown and processed by independent entities who would receive state licenses.

It’s a far cry from what many Democrats, including Gov. Tony Evers, have called for. Evers has proposed full recreational legalization in his budgets, which Republicans have called a non-starter.

Last year, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, hinted at internal divides within the Republican caucus over concerns that medical marijuana would serve as a gateway to recreational usage. In a recent interview with WISN-TV, he said the Wisconsin proposal would “probably be the most restrictive” medical marijuana program in the United States.

Vos said the GOP-held legislature does not want to build a marijuana industry similar to those in Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota, which have fully legalized cannabis, and where private dispensaries function more similarly to bars.

An Evers spokesperson told WPR that the Governor “will be reviewing” the proposal, and that he “looks forward to hearing from Wisconsinites and other stakeholders as the bill moves through the legislative process.” Evers said last week that, while he supports full legalization, he can “get behind” medical proposals if they are not overly restrictive or contain unrelated provisions.