The controversial medical marijuana bill that has gained much support over the last few months will not be passed this session, according to government officials.
The office of Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, confirmed the bill would not be placed on the calendar for the Legislature. Pocan is one of the main sponsors of the Assembly bill, which would allow qualifying patients with debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of their condition.
“It is disappointing to many of us, myself included, that the Legislature did not pass medical marijuana this session. But as I have assured the patient advocates, our efforts enjoyed many successes this year and we came closer to our goal than ever before,” Pocan said in a statement. “This fight is far from over because this issue is far too vital for too many people.”
The last day of the regular legislative session is Thursday. However, there will be limited sessions the first week of May.
Gary Storck, president of Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said he was very disappointed the bill would not be moving forward because they had a lot of hope that it would get done this session.
NORML will be working this summer to get referendums on local ballots on this issue across the state, Storck added, and will be getting signatures and organizers working to get the word out to more people.
“There’s a lot of people in the Legislature who just don’t get it,” Storck said. “We’ve come to the conclusion that if you can’t change the law, maybe you have to change the Legislature.”
Storck added the movement supporting medical marijuana has grown significantly in the past couple months and has reached a level of activism not seen before.
Storck speculated many legislators may be hesitant to support the bill because they have false perceptions about the drug’s dangers. He added many legal pharmaceutical drugs are much more harmful than marijuana.
“[Legislators have] been so brainwashed that marijuana is some kind of dangerous, illegal drug, that it’s hard for them to think outside the box,” Storck said. “Cannabis won’t kill you; it won’t cause permanent damage. It’s definitely something that should be out there.”
Mark Grapentine, senior vice president of government relations of the Wisconsin Medical Society, said they care deeply about people who are suffering, but medical marijuana is not the best treatment option and the organization does not support the bill.
Although they understand some people would like to embrace anything that seems helpful, what is most important is that any medicine a patient takes is safe, effective and has as few side effects as possible, he said. The state Legislature is not the appropriate body to be making that decision about marijuana.
“We don’t believe anything you can just grow in your backyard … is really the best way to go in terms of advancing the science,” Grapentine said. “We completely understand the desire for those who are suffering to find a way to alleviate that suffering, but you can’t just skip steps in science and expect the best result.”