Two Republican state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would legalize medical marijuana, saying it's time for Wisconsin to join the majority of the country in giving patients the option.
But already, the state Senate's top Republican said he doesn't support the bill and leaders in both houses of the Legislature downplayed its chances of passing.
The proposal by state Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, and state Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls could still add momentum to a cause that has mostly been championed in Wisconsin by Democrats, including Gov. Tony Evers. Their bill would regulate the "cultivation, processing, testing, and dispensing" of medical marijuana in Wisconsin, which could be prescribed by doctors, physicians assistants and certified advanced practice nurses.
"There is no doubt that each and every one of us knows someone that has suffered through an illness and struggled to find a way to make it through each day," said the lawmakers in a statement. "It is clear that we as a state need to begin having a real discussion about medical marijuana legalization."
But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, who has opposed other efforts to legalize medical marijuana, did so again Wednesday.
"I personally oppose this bill and I don’t believe there are the votes in our caucus to pass it," Fitzgerald said in a brief written statement.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has been more open to supporting medical marijuana, but he also suggested this bill would not pass.
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"As someone who supports a limited form of medical marijuana, I appreciate the efforts by Rep. Felzkowski to move the issue forward," Vos said. "However, it’s clear that our caucus hasn’t reached a consensus."
The proposal by Felzkowski and Bernier is significant because it's the first time in the past decade that Republicans have taken the lead on legalizing medical marijuana, but this is hardly the first time the issue has been raised at the Wisconsin state Capitol.
Last month, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced another bill to regulate medical marijuana. Two of those lawmakers issued a statement Wednesday saying they feared the latest GOP bill could prevent sick people from getting access to the medicine they need.
"I sincerely hope politics does not get in the way of the heath care needs of Wisconsin families yet again," said Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison.
Evers called for legalizing medical marijuana in the budget he introduced to the Legislature earlier this year, but that proposal was removed by GOP lawmakers. Evers also called for eliminating civil and criminal penalties for possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana.
Felzkowski, who battled breast cancer in 2014, told the Associated Press that she would have tried medical marijuana instead of opioids during her treatment if it had been a legal option.
Back in 2005, another cancer survivor, former Rep. Gregg Underheim, a Republican from Oshkosh, introduced a medical marijuana bill. That proposal never received a vote.