The Nov. 16 press conference produced a lot of media coverage, as well as some surprising opinions including that of State Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend), one the Senate's most conservative members.
The measure might face some opposition from law enforcement and some Republican state lawmakers. However, even some conservatives like state Sen. Glenn Grothman of West Bend are mulling over a "yes" vote.
Grothman said he hasn't made up his mind yet, but is inclined to vote for it unless someone gives him "a good reason not to".
"It wouldn't shock me if I vote for it," Grothman said. -- "2 State Lawmakers Put Forward Medical Marijuana Bill", Nov. 17, 2009, Channel 3000.
Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), has offered only opposition so far through statements from his spokesperson Kimber Leidl. But a Nov. 25 Capital Times article reported that his position appeared to be softening.
Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who as recently as October said he would not back any medical marijuana proposal, says he still opposes it, according to spokeswoman Kimber Liedl, but there is a “but.”
“With the AMA’s recent recommendation to study marijuana further, Scott’s interested in seeing some of the research that will come out of that,” says Liedl. -- "Will state join others in legalizing medical marijuana?", Nov. 25, 2009, Capital Times.
Last session, when Republicans controlled the State Assembly, the principal nemesis of the JRMMA was Rep. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa), then chair of Assembly Health and Healthcare Reform.
But Rep. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Health and Healthcare Reform, said she will continue her opposition to medical marijuana because of concerns about its safety.
Vukmir, a nurse, said she believes it is better for patients to use medications that have been approved or may soon be available than to have people grow their own marijuana.
"I will refuse to put members through the circus of a hearing for a bill that is not going to go anywhere," Vukmir said. "This is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to legalize marijuana, which is not going to happen on my watch." -- "After 30 years, another push to relax pot laws", April 10, 2007, Wisconsin State Journal.
Fortunately for long suffering Wisconsin patients, Rep. Vukmir's "watch" ended on election day in Nov. 2008, when Democrats took back the State Assembly for the first time since 1993. Next door in Michigan in the same election, voters passed a state medical marijuana law with a majority in every county, 63% overall statewide.
With Vukmir planning to abandon her Assembly seat for a run for State Senate in Nov. 2010, it will be interesting to see how far the nurse and and minority party health committee member, will go in her opposition, knowing she has to appeal to voters who, regardless of political affiliation, likely support medical marijuana.
A recent article in the Fond du Lac Reporter revealed Republican Assembly Rep. John Townsend's opinion.
State Rep. John Townsend said he opposes any marijuana use, and would vote against the bill.
"Under federal law, it is an illegal substance, and there may by some problems with that. Some state statutes allow medical marijuana, but my question is whether it is really being used for medical purposes - or is it recreational? And who is regulating this use? I've been in contact with the local medical community, and they are not in favor of it," he said. -- "Will Wisconsin Legalize Medical Marijuana?" Dec. 2, 2009, Fond du Lac Reporter.
The Janesville Gazette published a major article about the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act Sunday. The Gazette reported a number of lawmakers opinions.
Rep. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) is well known for opposing proposals that make sense, and his opinion here does not break the mold.
Rep. Steve Nass, R-La Grange, isn't convinced.
"I am opposed to this legislation," Nass said.
"The sponsors of this bill are ignoring the concerns of both medical professionals and law enforcement. The Wisconsin State Medical Society opposes this legislation because it attempts to proceed in advance of legitimate scientific research into the medical benefits of marijuana. In order to justify legalization, the medical benefits must be validated by both scientific and medical experts," Nass said.
"The use of marijuana for medical purposes should be about medicine, not a political agenda," Nass said. -- "Erpenbach Bill Would Legalize Medical Marijuana in State ", Dec. 6, 2009, Janesville Gazette.
Nass apparently failed to think through the irony of this statement. As a politician opposing the JRMMA himself, his opposition is part of a political agenda.
The article also includes comments from other Janesville area lawmakers:
Rep. Chuck Benedict, D-"Beloit: "The Obama Administration recently announced a change in policy related to medical marijuana in so much as they will focus on those who traffic drugs and not those who dispense marijuana for medical purposes.
"This change could impact state laws, not just in Wisconsin, but all over the country. As a retired physician, I do know that marijuana does offer medical benefits for some patients who require pain management and anti-nausea treatments. AB554 will be before the Assembly Public Health Committee, which I chair, on Dec. 15th, and I am looking forward to hearing the debate.
Rep. Kim Hixson, D-Whitewater: "This legislation is still in a very early stage of the legislative process. I am not a member of the Assembly Committee on Public Health, where this bill has been referred and has yet to receive a public hearing. Until this legislation reaches the Assembly floor, Iwill continue to focus on creating and retaining jobs in our area, which remains my No. 1 priority."
Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit: "I am going to keep an open mind about this legislation. I look forward to hearing the testimony from doctors, specialists in pain management, and law enforcement."
Rep. Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville: "The Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act was only recently introduced and referred to the Committee on Public Health and has several legislative hurdles to clear before it could be considered by the Assembly. A public hearing has been scheduled, and at that time people will have their first opportunity to speak out for or against the bill. I welcome input from my constituents on the Medical Marijuana Act, and will consider their opinions as I review this legislation." -- "Erpenbach Bill Would Legalize Medical Marijuana in State ", Dec. 6, 2009, Janesville GWazette.
We'll certainly be hearing more from legislators at the Combined Committee Hearing on Dec. 15, and once the hearing has ended, we should expect lawmakers to be ready to state where they stand on this critical health care issue.
The combined hearing will be held by two Wisconsin State Legislature Committees: the Assembly Committee on Public Health and the Senate Committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue. Sen. Erpenbach chairs the Senate Health Committee .
For more info: List of qualifying medical conditions included in the JRMMA. For additional details on the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act, the Dec. 15 combined Health committee hearing, and how to submit testimony, bill text and status, all the latest news and how you can help, visit JRMMA.org, IMMLY.org or MadisonNORML.org. Visit my Madison NORML Examiner articles archive. Photo courtesy of IMMLY.