These 7 details in GOP Medical Marijuana bill in Wisconsin could be key to debate

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These 7 details in GOP Medical Marijuana bill in Wisconsin could be key to debate

Wisconsin Republicans Introduce Limited Medical Marijuana Bill, Facing Senate and Public Scrutiny.

Assembly Republicans introduced a bill Monday that would allow Wisconsinites with one of 15 eligible health conditions to access smokeless medical marijuana products at five state-run dispensaries.

The Assembly is expected to take action on the bill quickly, including holding a hearing and aiming to pass it in February. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he has the Republican votes to do so.

But the bill's chances don't look as strong in the Senate — it doesn't appear to have the backing of the GOP Senate leader or a Republican senator who led previous versions of the bill and prefers private dispensaries.

And while Democratic Gov. Tony Evers previously said he would sign a restrictive medical marijuana bill, his spokeswoman said Monday that he would review the proposal and hear from Wisconsinites and other stakeholders. Democrats continue to push for full legalization, including recreational use.

Many lawmakers said they planned to review the details of the bill, which is over 50 pages long.

Here are some of the key provisions that could be debated, and how the restrictions compare to other states.

Participants would have to visit one of five state-run dispensaries

Unlike states with legal recreational marijuana and profitable private dispensaries — including neighboring Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota — the state of Wisconsin would own and manage five locations that dispense medical marijuana products.

Vos compared the model to states that control the wholesale retail of alcohol or run their own liquor stores.

Iowa, which has medical but not recreational marijuana, allows medical cannabis products to be sold at five dispensaries spread across the state that are licensed, but not owned, by the government there.

Vos said Republicans planned to place pharmacists in existing state-owned buildings, but it's not clear exactly where those would be located. Each region managed by the state Department of Health Services would have one dispensary.

For some, it's possible that getting to those locations would take longer than illegally crossing a state border to get products. As of last year, half of Wisconsinites ages 21 and older lived within a 75-minute drive of a legal dispensary, the Wisconsin Policy Forum found — and that was before Minnesota launched recreational marijuana.

Eligible health conditions narrower than neighboring states

To participate in Wisconsin's program, residents would have to have at least one of 15 medical conditions confirmed by their doctor:

  • Cancer
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Seizures and epilepsy
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Glaucoma
  • Severe chronic pain
  • Severe chronic nausea
  • Severe muscle spasms
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Chronic motor or vocal tic disorder
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Any terminal illness with life expectancy of less than a year

Vos said lawmakers looked to other states to create a comprehensive list, and more health conditions could be added through legislation. Patients would have to renew confirmation of their condition every two years.

Neighboring states list additional eligible conditions, including Parkinson's disease, severe autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, sickle cell disease, anorexia, migraines and lupus. Illinois' medical marijuana program covers about 50 conditions, the most among Wisconsin's neighbors.

More forms of cannabis than previous bills, but no smoking

The bill proposed Monday would allow the following medical cannabis products: concentrates, oils,tinctures, edibles, pills, topical forms, gels, creams, vapors, patches, liquids and forms administered by a nebulizer.

Previous versions of a Republican-proposed medical marijuana bill only allowed for liquids, oils, pills, tinctures or topical forms.

Smoking medical cannabis is not allowed in Iowa, but neither are edible products like gummies, candy or chocolate. In Minnesota, participants over age 21 can use dried flower, which is consumed by smoking.

The prices of products would be set "only at a level sufficient to recoup product and operational costs" — lawmakers said revenue wouldn't be raised for the state.

Strict rules for transporting products; penalty for violation

Under the bill, medical marijuana products could only be kept at the patient's residence, or in transport from the dispensary or a caregiver's residence. There are exceptions for overnight "temporary accommodations."

The participant can designate up to three caregivers that can help purchase and possess medical marijuana products, who would have to undergo a background check.

The participant or their caregivers could face a $25 penalty if they violate the rules for transportation or the requirement to carry a registration card.

State would choose one processor; grower fee set at $10,000 for now

The bill says that marijuana growers, processors and testing laboratories would be licensed and regulated by the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

The fee to become a licensed cannabis grower would be set at $10,000 until DATCP changes the amount. Processors and laboratories would pay $50,000 and $5,000 initially, and be under a DATCP contract.

DATCP would only contract with one processor, but could expand if the program reaches over 50,000 participants. That processor could use subcontractors to provide services, which would also have to be licensed.

The agency could conduct investigations and hold hearings to determine if any growers, processors or laboratories have violated regulations. DATCP could make corrective plans or revoke licenses.

Participants can't be on parole, probation or extended supervision

The bill also states that participants and registered caregivers can't be on parole, probation or extended supervision.

Applicants for licenses for growers, processors and labs — and the company's principal officers or board members — can't be convicted of a crime, unless the sentence was finished at least 10 years ago. The applicant or 80% of that group must be Wisconsin residents.

Fair employment law wouldn't apply to medical marijuana use

The bill specifies that the state's fair employment law would not protect against discrimination based on an employee's medical marijuana usage.

That means employers wouldn't need to allow or accommodate use of a medical marijuana project, and could refuse to hire, terminate or discipline employees based on any use of marijuana.

Under the bill, employers could still have a drug-free workplace policy and test for THC, and employees fired under that policy could not receive unemployment insurance.

The bill does add medical marijuana use to the list of characteristics that can not be discriminated against in housing.

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Region: Wisconsin

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