The State of Medical Marijuana in Wisconsin
2020 Grade: F
2019-2020 Improvements and Recommendations
While the rise of safe, legal and functional access to medical cannabis and cannabis products has been slow in America’s Dairyland, an appetite for reform is growing in the legislature and the executive branch. In his first state budget proposal after taking office Governor Tony Evers included language to improve the state’s medical program, provide for cannabis-related criminal record expungements and expand patient protections. Unfortunately, this proposal, along with other cannabis reform legislation introduced by Badger State lawmakers, failed to secure enough support to pass the legislature in 2019. Before all legislative activity in the state capitol shifted to COVID emergency response, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle introduced proposals ranging from expanding the state’s existing medical program to authorizing an adult-use program.
As Wisconsin lawmakers look to 2021, ASA encourages collaborating with patients to organize a comprehensive medical cannabis program that extends access to patients and provides legal protections related to employment, housing and parental rights. Until such a model is organized, patients who have no legal alternative treatment option will be left to patronize the illegal market for access, where their safety and health is not protected.
In 2014, Wisconsin enacted what was known as Lydia’s Law (AB 726), which created a legal right for access, possession and use for patients with seizure disorders. However, the law only provided for legal access to CBD oil approved by the FDA, and the FDA had not approved any such products at that time. AB 726 was revised in 2017 under Act 4 to expand legal access beyond patients with severe epilepsy to include patients with any medical condition with a written physician recommendation. However, state law still prevented the application of cannabis medicine to patients by forbidding access to any products not approved by the FDA. The law allows medical practitioners to dispense CBD, but provides no guidance on how to obtain it, nor does the law address production or distribution. The law also only removes criminal penalties for CBD and does not authorize the possession or use of THC, even though nearly all CBD-rich products have at least trace amounts of THC, making the production of qualifying medicine practically unrealistic in Wisconsin.
Confusion over the state’s CBD laws culminated in the State Attorney General issuing a clarification in 2018, the same year that Congress replaced the previous national hemp production pilot program with a full-scale and permanent national program. The clarification reminds state and local law enforcement that hemp products are legal in the state, and as such enforcement personnel must recognize state protections for producers and patients. Also in 2018, voters in 11 Wisconsin counties sent a signal to state lawmakers by approving non-binding measures supporting medical cannabis policy reforms, and another six approved similar resolutions supporting adult-use reforms.
Surveyed patients again report feeling frustrated that medical cannabis is illegal in Wisconsin, except for CBD oil.