Medical marijuana is on the move in Wisconsin. Long prodded by local activist groups like Is My Medicine Legal Yet, state Rep. Greg Underheim (R-Oshkosh) is now once again pushing a medical marijuana bill, and poll results just released by the Marijuana Policy Project show that such a measure would win the backing of three-quarters of Wisconsin voters.
In a September 14 message to his legislative colleagues, Rep. Underheim, chair of the Assembly's Committee on Health and vice chair of the Committee on Public Health circulated a draft of a bill he intends to introduce this session. According to the draft, the bill will prohibit the arrest of "qualifying patients" and "primary care givers," as well as provide for a medical necessity defense in the event they are arrested. Patients qualify by having a debilitating medical condition, including but not limited to AIDS, wasting, severe pain or nausea, seizures, and severe muscle spasms. Once verified by a physician, patients and caregivers must register with the state to be protected.
The draft of the bill also warns that federal law prohibits marijuana use, possession, or cultivation even for medicinal purposes. "This bill changes only state law regarding marijuana," the draft is careful to note.
Underheim is currently looking for cosponsors, he said in a note attached to the draft. If Wisconsin politicians are as attuned to polls as most are, he should be able to find some. According to a July poll of Wisconsin residents conducted for MPP by Chamberlain Research Consultants and released this week, more than 75% of respondents favored legislation to permit seriously ill patients to use marijuana. Support was bipartisan, with 68% of Republicans and 84% of Democrats in favor. It also cut across all age groups, with no age group reporting less than 70% support.
"We are heartened by such overwhelming, bipartisan support for legislation to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest," said MPP legislative analyst Adam Horowitz. "Young or old, Republican or Democrat, Wisconsin residents believe seriously ill patients should not have to live in fear. We are hopeful that legislators will listen to their constituents and give Wisconsin patients the protection they deserve."
"The public clearly understands the difference between the medical use of marijuana and the recreational use of marijuana, and the public clearly supports the medical use of marijuana," said Underheim. Now the question is whether the Wisconsin legislature will listen to the people who elect it.