Bruce Murphy
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Vos Wants Medical Marijuana Bill

Assembly Speaker wants to push this bill in fall. Will Senate oppose it?

By - Jul 1st, 2019 11:35 am
Robin Vos. Photo by Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Robin Vos. Photo by Coburn Dukehart/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

On Friday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said that a bill to legalize medical marijuana would be a top priority for him this fall, as the Associated Press reported.

Vos was highly critical of  Democratic Gov. Tony Evers‘ state budget proposal, which would have legalized medical pot and decriminalized its recreational use. Vos called Evers’ medical marijuana plan “half-handed”, though he seemed to be suggesting the opposite, that the legislation was far too sweeping. Republicans stripped those provisions — and many others — from the budget they approved and sent to the governor.

Vos said he wants to discuss a bill to legalize medical marijuana with his caucus this fall, presumably after the state budget is finalized. Vos told the media he has been open to legalizing medical marijuana for several years.

Evers would undoubtedly sign such a bill. But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has steadfastly opposed medical marijuana. “A proposal like what the governor put forward in his budget would have a difficult time getting Republican support in the Senate,” Fitzgerald said in a statement.

While Fitzgerald and Vos often disagreed when the governor was Republican Scott Walker, they have been more united since a Democrat took over the governor’s office. Vos would be likely to consult with Fitzgerald before the Assembly passed any medical pot bill. But Vos conceded it won’t be easy to get a bill through the Senate.

The idea is favored by most voters. The last Marquette University Law School poll showed that 83 percent of respondents favored medical marijuana, including 96 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of Republicans.

“The debate on this has changed dramatically in the last 10 years,” as State Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), told Urban Milwaukee. “Given the fact that 33 other states have adopted medical marijuana, I think there’s an appetite for this among the public in Wisconsin.”

Testin has been working with a bipartisan group of legislators, including state Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma), a cancer survivor, Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), and Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison), on creating a medical marijuana bill.

Most Republicans in the Senate hold safely gerrymandered seats and are dominated by an ultra-conservative group of GOP senators, a “Murderer’s Row for liberal and moderate ideas,” as Urban Milwaukee columnist Steve Walters once described them.

The Republicans hold an 19-14 majority in the Senate, so even if Testin and every Democrat votes for medical marijuana, they would need to convince two more Republicans to vote yes. “We still face a hard road in the Senate,” Testin noted. 

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