Wisconsin Cannabis Laws
Is Cannabis Legal In Wisconsin?
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Is recreational cannabis legal in Wisconsin?
No. In 2013 and 2015, State Representative Melissa Sargent introduced bills to legalize cannabis in the state, with no success. Since then, bills from 2017-2020 have met the same fate. Most recently, governor Tony Evers announced that his upcoming budget would include a proposal to legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes, decriminalizing any use possession of up to 25 grams, and establishing an expungement procedure for convictions involving less than 25 grams.
Throughout the years, other municipalities have decriminalized and lessened penalties for possession of varying degrees. Follow Wisconsin’s vast cannabis history via the timeline below.
Is Medical Marijuana legal in Wisconsin?
Yes & No. Full-strength medical marijuana is still illegal in the state, while restricted use of CBD oil as a treatment for epilepsy patients is legal.
CBD oil first became legal for patients’ use in 2014, with the passing of Lydia’s law, named after an epilepsy patient and advocate. The law was widely criticized and seen as just a symbolic gesture because there was no legal avenue to procure medical CBD products within Wisconsin until the Hemp Farming Act’s federal passing in 2018.
Are CBD products legal in Wisconsin?
Yes. Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States, as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC.
Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.
Wisconsin’s Cannabis Timeline:
1908: Industrial Hemp is experimentally grown in Wisconsin via a state-funded program.
1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.
1939: Wisconsin first prohibits cannabis.
1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession.
1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act because the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth.”) The court penned the unanimous opinion by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.
1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.
This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions based on its potential for abuse accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and international treaties.
Classification of Controlled Substances:
Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use
Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use
Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use
1977: Madison, Wisconsin, passes one of the earliest municipal decriminalization bills in the nation. Through a voter-approved ballot measure, up to 112 grams of cannabis possessed in private was decriminalized.
1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws designed, including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the death penalty’s promotion to be used against “drug kingpins.”
1997: Milwaukee, Wisconsin reduced penalties for first-time possession of up to 25 grams to a fine of at most $500. The bill also made small possession of cannabis a non-criminal offense.
1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.
2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.
2014: Lydia’s Law, Wisconsin Act 267, legalizes the use of CBD oil as a treatment for patients with seizure disorders. Unfortunately, there was no legal way to purchase CBD in the state.
2015: Wisconsin legislature removes penalties for CBD oil possession but does not provide a legal way to procure CBD oil.
2015: Milwaukee, Wisconsin further reduces possession of up to 25 grams to a $50 fine.
2017: Lydia’s law is amended, allowing access to CBD oil under restrictions in Wisconsin. Eventually, when CBD oil was rescheduled on the federal level via the Farm bill, Wisconsin followed suit.
2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act.
2018: More than eleven Wisconsin counties approved non-binding referendums expressing support to legalize medical marijuana, with more than half also approving recreational use.
2021: Wisconsin Tony Evers announced that his upcoming budget would include a proposal to legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes, decriminalizing any use possession of up to 25 grams, and establishing an expungement procedure for convictions involving less than 25 grams.