Wisconsin Legalization Efforts Take Shape as Lawmakers Prepare to Introduce MMJ Bill

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Two Wisconsin lawmakers are making another go at passing legislation that would legalize medical cannabis in the state following a previous attempt that failed to gain traction.

State Rep. Mark Pocan and Sen. Jon Erpenbach – both Democrats – are sponsoring the new bill. Pocan will reveal more details about the legislation during a press conference at 1 p.m. Central time tomorrow.

The two lawmakers spearheaded a similar initiative that died in committee last year despite strong support from several influential groups, such as the Wisconsin Nurses Association and other health care professionals.

Various polls taken over the past decade show strong support for medical marijuana among the general population in Wisconsin, mirroring the national consensus on the issue. Last year, voters in the Madison area and in the city of River Falls overwhelmingly backed non-binding measures – known as advisory referenda – calling for the legalization of medical pot.

But the Legislature is another story, as many lawmakers in the state have expressed their opposition to medical pot. Pocan and Erpenbach will therefore face an uphill battle trying to persuade enough lawmakers to back the bill.

Wisconsin joins several other states across the country – including Massachusetts, Florida and Ohio – that are poised to take up the medical marijuana issue, either via a ballot measure or a bill.

Midwestern states have been slow to adopt medical cannabis laws, with only Michigan passing MMJ regulations. But even that state has backtracked in recent months. Despite the emergence of a thriving MMJ industry over the past two years, many Michigan dispensaries closed after an appeals court ruled that  the state’s medical pot laws do not allow the sale of marijuana. The decision has basically decimated the sector, meaning the sale of medical marijuana via dispensaries is virtually non-existent in the Midwest.