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Medicinal Cannabis

Posted by Gary Storck
Revised: Thursday, December 29, 2005

Today, Wisconsin residents with medical conditions that can be relieved or improved through the medicinal use of cannabis must still break the law if they choose to use this therapy. But there is hope. Rep. Gregg Underheim (R-Oshkosh), has reintroduced medical marijuana legislation in the 2005-2006 session, AB-740. Underheim earlier sponsored a bill in the 2003-2004 session. The 2003-2004 session bill was introduced too late in the session to move out of committee. Rep. Underheim, who chairs the Assembly Health Committee, attended the Third National Conference of Cannabis Therapeutics presented by Patients out of Time and the University of Virginia in Charlottesville Virginia, May 20-22, 2004. Watch this page for updates.

Madison NORML blog:  Medical Marijuana in Wisconsin: Looking Back at 2005: Part One./ Part Two

February 23, 2004 Wisconsin Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced!

Wisconsin Medical Marijuana Law To Be Considered

The 2001-2002 session's bill, sponsored by Reps. Frank Boyle and Mark Pocan along with then-Rep. Rick Skindrud, died in Rep. Scott Suder's criminal justice committee. 

The bill. AB 715, was officially introduced January 14, 2002. You can read the bill history and download a PDF copy at: http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2001/data/AB715hst.html.

The issue gained a lot of momentum and visibility thanks to the bill and the IMMLY poll that showed medical marijuana has very strong support statewide. 

Please contact your legislators and ask them to support Wisconsin medicinal marijuana legislation. 

IMMLY Poll finds Overwhelming Statewide Support for passage of Wisconsin Medicinal Marijuana Bill

Recent editorials by Wisconsin papers supporting medical marijuana (For earlier editorials, scroll down page):
Press Release: First Comprehensive Bill On Medical Marijuana In Wisconsin

Press Release: Thompson Endorses Boyle/Pocan Medical Marijuana Bill

Press Release:: Is My Medicine Legal YET? Founder Jacki Rickert Hails Proposed Wisconsin Medicinal Marijuana Legislation 

Earlier Developments

On April 10, 2001, the State Affairs Committee of the Wisconsin Assembly, chaired by Rep. Rick Skindrud, (R-Mt. Horeb) held an informational hearing at the State Capitol, and heard testimony from Wisconsin patient Jacki Rickert, along with representatives of the State Medical Society, Wisconsin Nurses Association, the Dane County Sheriff and Rep. Frank Boyle.

Informational hearing on Medical Marijuana: April 10, 2001
EDITORIAL: Put the UW to work on the medicinal pot debate
Appleton Post-Crescent
12 April 2001

GUEST COMMENTARY: Government Holds Monopoly On Marijuana Research
Appleton Post-Crescent
2 July 2001


Currently, Rep. Skindrud is contemplating introducing legislation in the Assembly, as are Reps. Boyle and Pocan. Unfortunately, currently no state senators are willing to co-sponsor legislation, meaning it may not be introduced this session. 

After the Supreme Court ruling, at least three major state newspapers editorialized in favor of legal access to medicinal cannabis. Links to articles are below. The media and state and federal representatives now recognize that this is an issue, and it is now more important than ever for state residents to ask their elected representatives to not only support efforts at the state level, but also at the federal, where Barney Frank's States rights to medical marijuana bill has been introduced, with 15 co-sponsors as of June 5, 2001, including Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison), the only Wisconsin co-sponsor to date.

Editorial: What's the court smoking?
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Friday June 1, 2001
Editorial: State Needs Medical Pot
The Capital Times, (WI)
Thursday May 17  2001

Editorial: What's So Awful About Pot For The Ill
Eau Claire Leader-Telegram
Thursday May 17 2001


On March 17, 1999, the Institute of Medicine report, Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, was released. On March 22, 1999, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel editorialized in favor of favor of medicinal cannabis, stating "there is no legitimate reason to object to the medical use of marijuana. If marijuana helps doctors make life more bearable for people who are suffering, it would be unreasonable and cruel to deny physicians -- and their patients -- this tool." Follow the link below to read the entire editorial:

Institute Of Medicine Report:
Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base

Editorial: Medical marijuana deserves try
22 March 1999
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Milwaukee, WI


In June of 1999, the Wisconsin Public Health Association passed a resolution at their annual meetings endorsing prescriptive access to medicinal cannabis . The resolution, of which a draft copy can be found at the link below, concludes: "that greater harm is caused by the legal consequences of its prohibition than possible risks of medicinal use; THEREFORE, WPHA urges the Governor of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Legislature to move expeditiously to make cannabis available as a legal medicine where shown to be safe and effective."

And on October 29, 1999, the Wisconsin Nurse's Association adopted a similar measure, urging the Governor and the Legislature to "move expeditiously to make cannabis available as a legally prescribed medicine".

Wisconsin Public Health Association endorses medicinal cannabis access
Wisconsin Nurse's Association adopts "Reference" supporting Access To Therapeutic Marijuana/Cannabis
Organizations Supporting Access to Therapeutic Cannabis As Compiled by Patients Out of Time

A number of Wisconsin medicinal cannabis patients frustrated with the continuing prohibition of medicinal cannabis at the federal level joined hundreds of other patients from all 50 states in a class action lawsuit against the federal government that was filed in Philadelphia on July 3, 1998. The Action Class for Freedom of Therapeutic Cannabis suffered an unexpected blow when the judge handling the case reversed himself and granted the government's motion for a dismissal in a ruling dated December 1, 1999. 

The Action Class for Freedom of Therapeutic Cannabis

Despite this setback, there were many victories for the side of compassion in 1999. In California, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling supporting the medical necessity defense for medical marijuana patients, although the Clinton Administration ultimately appealed this to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against the OCBC on May 14, 2001. In November 1999, voters in the state of Maine passed a medicinal cannabis initiative by the margin of 61-39%. And in the Pacific Northwest, where medicinal marijuana won big in 1998, the states of Oregon and Washington are adjusting nicely to having this medicine legally accessible.

US WA: Feds Clarify Medical-marijuana Guidelines; Reject busting patients
Law Enforcement Admits That Oregon Medical Marijuana Law Not Causing Problems They Predicted

Legislative Efforts Over The Years

In the late 1970's, Wisconsin and a number of other states took up the issue of medicinal cannabis. In 1979, two bills were introduced, AB 107 and AB 279. Both bills authorized the establishment of therapeutic programs to provide cannabis to patients. Both bills had hearings and made it to committee.

On July 31, 1979, a hearing was held on AB 279 at the State Capitol, and the late Robert Randall, (who passed away June 2, 2001), testified in support of the bill. I recently located a copy of an article about the hearing, found at the link below.

Ex-alderman asks legal marijuana for medical use
Wisconsin State Journal
August 1, 1979
Robert Randall's 1979 Madison visit
The Capital Times
June 13, 2001

Wisconsin eventually passed a medicinal cannabis law in 1981, L.B. 697, which passed the Assembly 77-19 and the Senate 32-1. Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus signed the bill into law in  April 1982, but it was written with the expectation that the federal government would soon reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II or lower. As that still has not happened nearly 20 years later, the law does little to protect Wisconsin's medicinal cannabis patients. 

Here is the section regarding medical marijuana from the state statutes:

961.34 Controlled substances therapeutic research. Upon the request of any practitioner, the controlled substances board shall aid the practitioner in applying for and processing an investigational drug permit for marijuana under 21 USC 355 (i). If the federal food and drug administration issues an investigational drug permit, the controlled substances board shall approve which pharmacies can distribute the marijuana to patients upon written prescription. Only pharmacies located within hospitals are eligible to receive the marijuana for distribution. The controlled substances board shall also approve which practitioners can write prescriptions for the marijuana.

961.34 - ANNOT. History: 1981 c. 193; 1983 a. 189 s. 329 (18); 1985 a. 146 s. 8; 1995 a. 448 ss. 16 to 19; Stats. 1995 s. 961.34.

Source: Wisconsin Legislature http://www.legis.state.wi.us/ 

In September 1997, the Journey For Justice brought the issue to the state's heartland with a 210-mile wheelchair journey from Mondovi to Madison to kick off the introduction of AB 560. Despite this courageous trek by a number of severely afflicted patients, the Republican-controlled legislature did not even give the bill a hearing.

STATE: Wisconsin
BILL: A.B. 560*
INTENT: "[To] move THC from schedule I to schedule III ... [and] establish a medical necessity defense to THC-related prosecutions,"
NOTES: a.) a patient must have a physician's written recommendation to use affirmative defense b.) patient must not respond to conventional therapies c.) defense also covers caregivers, possession, manufacture, and distribution

Source: Wisconsin Legislature http://www.legis.state.wi.us/

Editorial: Let's separate health, politics
17 September 1997
The Capital Times, Madison, WI

Painful journey
9 August 1997
LeaderTelegram, Eau Claire, WI

Woman seeking to use marijuana gets support for Madison trip
11 September 1997
LeaderTelegram, Eau Claire, WI

Journey for Justice II Wisconsin
Selma to Montgomery - Mondovi to Madison


DPFWI is hopeful that medicinal cannabis legislation will be introduced in the 2001-2002 legislative session. As of this writing, there are at least two bills being drafted for introduction in the new session that began in January of 2001, but neither has yet been formally introduced. It is imperative that legislators hear from constituents if the legislation is to be successful, so make sure your views are heard. Links to contact information including email addresses can be found here.

How You Can Help

Invite your Congressman to support HR 1344.
Send a Letter To The Editor!
Contact Wisconsin legislators & governor
U.S. Congress on the Internet
MAP Writer's Resources Page

Last Modified Thursday December 29, 2005 06:04 PM


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