2021 Wasn’t the Year for Medical Marijuana in Wisconsin, but the Future Still Looks Bright
From the perspective of suffering Wisconsinites who are hoping they’ll one day be able to get a Wisconsin Marijuana Card, 2021 was another frustrating year.
Yes, it was deja vu all over again as the same old players sought to bring relief to the Badger State, and the same old players blocked the door. And while we lack a crystal ball, as we look ahead to 2022, it looks as though things are unlikely to change anytime soon. However, if enough voters found enough willpower to send a loud, clear pro-medical-marijuana message to Madison, anything could happen.
Wisconsin Remains Without a Medical Marijuana Law
2021 came and went without Wisconsin passing a medical marijuana law, meaning we remain one of only fourteen states without one.
And like most of those fourteen states, resistance to and support of medical marijuana laws mostly breaks down along party lines, with Democrats supporting medical marijuana and Republicans opposing it.
Still, that trend has started to change nationally, and there have even been signs of it happening right here in Wisconsin, meaning we think it’s just a matter of time before the popularity of and demand for medical marijuana erases the party divide.
Wisconsin Democrats Have Been Biggest Medical Marijuana Supporters
As in the rest of the nation, medical marijuana’s biggest champions in Wisconsin have been Democrats.
Take Governor Tony Evers, for example. In his very first budget proposal to the legislature, back in 2019, Evers included funding for creating a medical marijuana market here, but that provision was removed by the legislature’s budget committee. And while Democrats in the legislature fought to protect that and other provisions in the governor’s budget, they were ultimately unsuccessful in the face of the GOP’s dominance in state politics.
Stop Us if You’ve Heard This One Before: The Governor Proposed a Medical Marijuana Law, and the GOP Rejected it
Flash forward to this year, when Governor Evers offered up his second biennial budget proposal. Again, the governor called for medical marijuana, but this proposal went farther than the last one, calling for legalized adult-use marijuana as well. State Republican lawmakers declined both suggestions.
In a statement defending his support for medical marijuana, Evers wrote “Legalizing and taxing marijuana in Wisconsin — just like we do already with alcohol — ensures a controlled market and safe product are available for both recreational and medicinal users and can open the door for countless opportunities for us to reinvest in our communities and create a more equitable state.”
State Republicans were unmoved with the governor’s logic, but seemed to be able to offer little in the way of strong counterarguments. For example, State Senator Kathy Bernier said the governor’s proposal was “divisive,” adding “The bottom line is, he knows, I know, we know that the Republican Legislature is not going to legalize marijuana, per se. So, let's talk about the things we can do, and work together.”
Here’s a Twist: Republicans Propose Medical Marijuana, and Republicans Reject it
Senator Bernier called the governor’s proposal “divisive,” but the only reason she offered for thinking so was that the governor knew Republicans wouldn’t support it.
By that logic, governors should be slaves to their legislatures, proposing nothing unless they know the legislature will support it, and reducing themselves from an equal branch of state government to a ceremonial office.
Of course Senator Bernier couldn’t really disagree with much of the substance of the governor’s proposal, because she too supports medical marijuana.
In fact, Senator Bernier cosponsored a medical marijuana bill in 2019. In a statement at the time, she wrote “There is no doubt that each and every one of us knows someone that has suffered through an illness and struggled to find a way to make it through each day. It is clear that we as a state need to begin having a real discussion about medical marijuana legalization."
Her Republican colleagues remained unmoved by her words.
“I personally oppose this bill and I don’t believe there are the votes in our caucus to pass it,” U.S. Congressman Scott Fitzgerald, who was the State Senate Majority Leader in 2019, said in a statement at the time.
In the lower chamber, Fitzgerald’s counterpart agreed with him. Speaker of the General Assembly Robin Vos said in a statement at the time, “As someone who supports a limited form of medical marijuana, I appreciate the efforts by Rep. Felzkowski to move the issue forward. However, it’s clear that our caucus hasn’t reached a consensus (on easing marijuana prohibition).”
The Times, They are a-Changin’: Wisconsin and National Republican Support for Medical Marijuana Grows (Just as Public Support is Growing)
This support for medical marijuana among Republican lawmakers is not unique to Wisconsin. Nationwide, Republican politicians have begun to warm up to the healing power of cannabis, just (coincidentally) as voters have too.
GOP Support is a Game Changer for Medical Marijuana Nationally and in Wisconsin
Growing support for medical marijuana among Republican politicians nationwide could be a gamechanger for Wisconsin and the thirteen other states without medical marijuana markets.
Jill Swing of the medical marijuana advocacy group South Carolina Compassionate Care Alliance told Florence, South Carolina, CBS affiliate WBTW, that as public opinion has shifted in medical marijuana’s favor, “The greatest increase in support has been Republicans who support it.”
Although Republican lawmakers were once worried that supporting legalization would hurt their re-election odds, instead “they have been touted as heroes by stepping out and supporting medical cannabis legislation, where in the beginning they were considered outliers.”
And as more and more Wisconsinite Republican lawmakers get the message that their constituents demand medical marijuana, one can expect this trend to continue. Speaking of which…
The Times, They are a-Changin’ Part II: Support for Medical Marijuana Among Voters Grows in Wisconsin, Nationally
Swing attributed the growth in support for medical marijuana among Republican lawmakers to grassroots advocacy and to constituents reaching out to their elected representatives and voicing their support for ending the prohibition on cannabis, particularly for medical reasons.
And that leads us to the most encouraging trend in medical marijuana both in Wisconsin and nationwide: the growth in support among the public.
As more and more Wisconsinites and Americans in general come to support medical marijuana, more and more politicians will be forced to get with the times, bringing medical marijuana to all Americans who need it to treat and relieve their medical conditions.
And make no mistake about it: Wisconsinites support medical marijuana, just as their fellow Americans do from coast to coast. Nationwide, 91% of Americans believe that medical marijuana should be legal, and more than 81% of Wisconsin voters agree with them.
With overwhelming voter support eroding the objections of behind-the-times politicians, we remain confident that medical marijuana is coming to Wisconsin. Sure, 2021 wasn’t our year, and there don’t appear to be any big developments on the horizon for 2022, but if voters let their lawmakers know their thoughts on the matter often enough and loudly enough, then Wisconsin’s future will be bright.
You Don’t Have to Wait for Lawmakers to Get with the Times Before Starting Your Medical Marijuana Journey
True, you won’t be able to get medical marijuana in Wisconsin until our lawmakers catch up with the 21st century, but you can start getting ready for that day right now!
Reserve an evaluation online today with one of our compassionate, knowledgeable doctors, and we’ll book an appointment for you just as soon as Wisconsin’s medical marijuana market is up and running.
You’ll meet with your new doctor virtually, using your smartphone, tablet, or computer for a telemedicine appointment. Together you’ll discuss your conditions, whether you qualify for a Wisconsin Marijuana Card, and what medical marijuana might be able to do for you, all without even leaving your home. And you’ll even save $25 off the cost of your evaluation!