Bipartisan Bill Legalizes Hemp
Big farm groups support it, state police chiefs oppose it.
A bill that would once again allow Wisconsin farmers to grow hemp is moving along in the legislature, but GOP Gov. Scott Walker said he has concerns about signing it into law.
The measure, Senate Bill 119, which was authored by Republicans and has bipartisan support from 40 Assembly and Senate lawmakers, received a public hearing on Tuesday. If the Senate committee approves the legislation, it could go to the full Senate for consideration.
State and federal law mostly prohibits the possession, manufacture, and delivery of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in cannabis, or marijuana, because it is a controlled substance. Marijuana and hemp are in the same plant species, but hemp contains only minute amounts of THC.
The bill would require the state to issue licenses to allow the growing and processing of industrial hemp that contains no more than three-tenths of 1 percent of THC. If a plant being grown for industrial hemp tests at a higher concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol than 1 percent, the entire crop would be seized and destroyed, according to the bill. The proposal would also allow people to possess, sell, or buy industrial hemp without a license from licensed growers in Wisconsin and elsewhere.
Agriculture interests contributed nearly $1.4 million between January 2011 and June 2017 to current legislators. Republican lawmakers, who control the Assembly 64-35 and the Senate 20-13, accepted more than $1.2 million of those contributions.
The top recipients of agriculture industry contributions between January 2011 and June 2017 were the:
Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, about $148,800;
Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, about $145,800;
GOP Sen. Howard Marklein, of Spring Green, about $122,000;
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, of Juneau, about $50,800;
GOP Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, of River Falls, about $49,900.
Walker, who received more than $1.9 million in campaign contributions from agriculture interests between January 2011 and June 2017, told WQOW that he was concerned about legalizing anything that could be used as a gateway drug to opioid and heroin abuse.