Wisconsin, home of Donald Trump critic-turned-collaborator Paul Ryan and site of a major defeat for organized labor in America, was one of the key states that flipped from blue to red on Election Night to hand the White House over to a would-be demagogue.
But, hey—why occupy yourself with minor details in a place where both Democrats and Republicans say they’re on board with medical marijuana?
A few weeks after a powerful Republican lawmaker voiced verbal support for medical marijuana in Wisconsin, two Democrats introduced bills that would give the state’s deciders the chance to back up the talk. One would legalize medical marijuana outright. The other, a “backup measure,” as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel called it, would allow elected representatives to cop out and hide under their desks while voters decided the issue at the ballot.
If early signs are any indication, this is one issue with which elected lawmakers can be trusted. Wisconsin has one of the most effective advocates for medical cannabis currently holding office in Steve Acheson, a Gulf War veteran. He openly admits to using marijuana—illegally—to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Acheson says weed did more for him than two “large bags of drugs,” which he waved around during a recent floor session to prove his point.
“We’re not criminals,” he said, according to the paper. “We no longer want to live in the shadows of society.”
Wisconsin is an outlier among (once historically) blue-leaning states in the Great Lakes region. Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota all have some form of medical marijuana access. Wisconsin does not—meaning it has one more thing in common with Indiana, home of Vice President Mike Pence, which still punishes simple marijuana possession with arrest. The first, of course, is thinking that electing a reality-television “star” to the office of the president is a good idea.
In fact, Wisconsin lawmakers have fumbled even attempts to legalize low-THC, high-CBD oil—something even Texas, which also went for Donald Trump, allows its citizens. An effort to allow oil lost last year, the newspaper reported, but is slated to be taken up again this year.
Most of the hope for a cannabis-friendly Wisconsin comes from Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the State Assembly, who a few weeks ago offered marijuana a tepid endorsement.
“I’m not an expert on medical marijuana, but I certainly have no problem with saying, if you have a sincere medical need and your doctor prescribes it, and it’s done under the normal process of any other opiate, I would be open to that,” he said.
This hope, that Vos is true to his word and open to medical marijuana—as open as he was to, say, Donald Trump as president—is the foundation on which medical marijuana’s hopes are built.
Vos has yet to offer any comment on the two laws introduced Monday—he didn’t even say if they’d be called for a hearing—and his counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (also a Republican), says he opposes the two bills opening the door for medical marijuana.
If medical cannabis is approved, patients in Wisconsin, including the ones who voted for Donald Trump, would be allowed up to three ounces of cannabis and 12 plants.
One thing the Democrats want everyone to know is that medical marijuana would not lead to any future American carnage, like legalized, recreational marijuana. Such talk is just plain crazy, bill sponsor Sen. Jon Erpenbach told the newspaper.
“It’s cold. It’s callous. It’s calculated. It’s stupid,” said Erpenbach, who as a voter in Wisconsin, is well-versed in the very, very bad things that can happen after you vote to approve the wrong thing, like Donald Trump. “This will not lead to full legalization.”
Debate on this may take months to unfold. The legislative session is just beginning in Wisconsin. But with this state’s sterling track record on important decisions (like who should be president), there’s nothing to fear. Nothing at all.