Felzkowski discusses medical marijuana legislation in exclusive Leader interview
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor
MADISON – State Representative Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) and State Senator Kathy Bernier (R-Chippewa Falls) introduced legislation on Wednesday, Dec. 11, that would create a medical marijuana program in Wisconsin for patients with certain medical conditions.
The bill creates a framework for a program that would be managed by a newly created five-person Medical Marijuana Regulatory Commission comprised of one appointee each from the Governor, Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader, Assembly Speaker, and Assembly Minority Leader. The Governor will appoint the Chairman of the Commission.
“(The Commission) will regulate and handle all things around the medical marijuana industry,” Felzkowski said in an interview with the Tomahawk Leader. The Commission’s duties would include issuing medical marijuana cards to patients who had been given medical marijuana recommendations by medical professionals.
Although the list of ailments included in the bill that would allow for a patient to receive a medical marijuana recommendation is “very limited,” Felzkowski noted that the Commission and the Medical Examining Board are empowered to work together to add other ailments to the list if they feel it is necessary.
The bill will allow for Wisconsin residents to obtain separate licenses to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana. Felzkowski noted that license holders will not be allowed to be involved in laboratories.
Felzkowski described a “seed to shelf” tracking system that the bill calls for. “We will know how many plants are being raised, who’s raising them, and the quality of where it’s being processed,” she said.
Forms of medical marijuana consumption are addressed in the legislation. Felzkowski said that consuming medical marijuana by smoking or in edible form are not included in the bill, but it can be used in pill form, a patch, a liquid form, tincture (concentrate), and a cream.
The bill’s introduction comes at a time when support for the legalization of medical marijuana is growing locally, statewide and nationally. In a Nov. 2018 referendum, Lincoln County residents supported legalizing medical marijuana with a 10,612 to 2,517 vote, an 81% to 19% margin. 15 other counties backed marijuana legalization in some form in nonbinding referendums.
A September Marquette University Law School poll saw 83% of participants in favor of legalization, and 33 states have legalized medical marijuana.
“The 2018 referendums made it clear that Wisconsinites are asking the Legislature to really look at this issue,” Felzkowski said in a Dec. 11 release. “Each one of us knows someone that has suffered through an illness. Medical marijuana is just another tool in the toolbox to help our suffering loved ones make it through the day with some semblance of normalcy.”
“We can and must find a way to make this work in Wisconsin,” Bernier stated in the release. “The medical marijuana program our bill establishes is highly regulated while still creating access to the relief many Wisconsinites need as they deal with continuous pain.”
The legislation is now available for lawmakers to sign on as co-sponsors to indicate their support the bill, Felzkowski and Bernier said.
Felzkowski stated that the bill faces opposition in both houses of the State Legislature, and that she hopes a public hearing on the bill is held in January “so we get some input on the legislation and we allow the conversation to start.”