On Wednesday April 16, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed 58 bills passed by state lawmakers this session into law, including the CBD hemp oil medical marijuana bill AB726 and SB150, a bill that authorizes municipalities to file charges in pot cases rejected by local district attorneys.
AB726 was unanimously passed by both houses earlier this year. While the original sponsors were Rep. Robb Kahl (D-Monona) and Rep. Scott Krug (R-Wisconsin Rapids), it soon attracted many unexpected cosponsors including Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca and Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend). The very limited medical marijuana legislation received the votes of many lawmakers who have made careers opposing marijuana law reform including Reps. Garey Bies, John Spiros, Jeremy Thiesfeldt, along with Sens. Leah Vukmir, Alberta Darling, Mary Lazich, Scott Fitzgerald, Robert Jauch, Julie Lassa, Joe Liebham, Rick Gudex and others.
Many of the same lawmakers, particularly from the Republican caucus, had also voted in favor of SB150/AB164. SB 150 is the senate companion bill at AB 164. According to an analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau, in cases where the district attorney has declined to prosecute, the bills allow "a local governmental unit or a county to enact and enforce an ordinance to prohibit the possession of any amount of marijuana and to prosecute a person for a second or subsequent offense of possessing marijuana or a synthetic cannabinoid." At hearings in both chambers, both bill sponsors and GOP committee members were openly hostile to cannabis reform activists, who strongly opposed it.
As far as AB726, its passage and signing into law may have been the easy part. An amendment to the bill provides that federal government agencies approve dispensing of the CBD hemp oil. This hurdle may make it difficult for patients to access the oil even after unanimous passage of the law.
The situation is not dissimilar on face from the 1982 passage of the Therapeutic Cannabis Research Act (TCRA). The TCRA, passed by near unanimous margins, legalized medical marijuana for glaucoma and cancer chemotherapy, and authorized physicians to apply for federal investigational drug permits (IND) to obtain federal medical marijuana supplies. The process relied on federal cooperation, which never happened.
The new law provides that federal agencies approve any dispensation of the CBD hemp oil medical marijuana preparation: "961.34 (2) (a) Upon the request of any physician, the controlled substances board shall aid the physician in applying for and processing an investigational drug permit under 21 USC 355 (i) for cannabidiol as treatment for a seizure disorder. If the federal food and drug administration issues an investigational drug permit, the controlled substances board shall approve which pharmacies and physicians may dispense cannabidiol to patients."
Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has written, "(I)t is unlikely that specific changes in state law will stimulate these type of proposed clinical trials from taking place in these states any time soon. Because CBD is acknowledged by federal regulators to be classified as a schedule I prohibited substance, multiple federal agencies - including the FDA, DEA, NIDA (US National Institute of Drug Abuse), and PHS (Public Health Service) must all sign off on any clinical investigation of the cannabinoid - a process that typically takes several years. A keyword search of FDA-approved clinical trials using the terms "cannabidiol" and "United States" yields fewer than ten ongoing human trials involving CBD - less than half of which are assessing its potential therapeutic application. (Two additional safety trials assessing the use of GW Pharmaceutical's patented high-CBD formulation Epidiolex in children with severe epilepsy are also ongoing.)
So it will be interesting to see how things unfold now AB726 is law and whether federal authorities will go along with these kind of state laws.
For cannabis law reform supporters, the bill signings represent a disappointing end to a session that saw lawmakers introducing a record number of cannabis bills, including AB480/SB363, the Jacki Rickert Medical Cannabis Act, sponsored by Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) and Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), an industrial hemp bill AB638, sponsored by Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink (D-Milladore), AB810, which would completely remove criminal penalties for possession and sales of small amounts of cannabis for adult use sponsored by Rep. Melissa Sargent's (D-Madison) and AB891, a marijuana decriminalization bill, sponsored by Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) and others. While none of these bills made it out of committee, sponsors promise they will be back in the 2015-2016 session.