Wis. one step closer to legalizing medical marijuana

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)--- Gov. Tony Evers introduced a proposal to reform Wisconsin’s marijuana laws on Monday morning. The proposal will be included in his budget.

"People shouldn't be treated like criminals for accessing medicine that can change or maybe even save their lives," Evers said.

Evers, along with Democratic legislators and stakeholders, held a press conference in the Capitol rotunda.

Along with legalizing medical marijuana, Evers also wants to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, establish an expungement procedure for people who have completed their sentence or probation for possession.

He also wants to align our state laws on cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, with federal standards. Evers said these measures will help reduce racial inequality in the criminal justice system.

"We are spending too much money prosecuting and incarcerating people and often people of color for non-violent crimes related to possessing small amounts of marijuana," he said.

The governor believes it is time for Wisconsin to join more than 30 states and the District of Columbia in legalizing medical marijuana.

However, some Republican lawmakers disagree.

"The drive to legalize marijuana for medical use is strictly driven by politics and not science and research," said State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, chair of the Assembly Committee on Health. "There is no quantitative, definitive science and research that can prove the efficacy of marijuana for medical purposes."

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he is open to medical marijuana, but Evers' proposal goes too far. Vos released a statement Monday afternoon.

"Without having specific details, his proposal appears to go too far. It makes it easier to get recreational marijuana and provides a pathway to full legalization, which I do not support. I’m open to medical marijuana when it’s prescribed by a doctor but it has to be done in a targeted way without allowing recreational use," the statement said.

Supporters of legalizing medical marijuana, however, said this should not be a partisan issue.

"This isn't a situation where cancer just strikes democrats or PTSD just strikes democrats. It's across the board," said State Sen. Jon Erpenbach.

Evers said he hopes he can work with Republicans to pass these measures, and he said the conversation is not over.

"Is this a starting and ending place for the discussion of legalizing recreational marijuana, the answer is no, but it’s a great starting place because it’s going to help people that need additional resources at their disposal to take care of pain and other issues that they might have," Evers said.

In 2018, nearly one million voters in 16 counties and two cities in Wisconsin voted to approve non-binding referenda asking if marijuana should be legal for medical or recreational use. These referenda all passed by significant majorities.

Evers will release his full budget on Thursday, Feb. 28.