Twenty supporters of medical marijuana picketed outside the Madison Club Tuesday night to protest a fundraiser for a state senator who they believed blocked a bill to legalize the practice.
Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Milladore, blocked the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act after hearing testimony from over 100 patients and medical organizations in 2009, according to a statement from National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
The bill would have exempted Wisconsin citizens dependent on marijuana as a medicine from federal and state laws regarding marijuana possession, said Gary Storck, spokesperson for the Madison division of the NORML.
The bill never reached committee last session and no senator was able to vote on it.
“She had a huge opportunity to expand Wisconsin health care for virtually nothing,” Storck said. “I don’t know if it was cowardice or fear or what.”
Several medical associations lobbied against the bill, including members of the Wisconsin Medical Society who testified before the Legislature that marijuana is not medicinal.
“The WMS does not support smoking as a delivery device for THC, other cannabinoids or any compound to be ‘therapeutic,'” said Dr. Michael Miller in a statement to a Senate health committee.
Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and a voter referendum in California this November would legalize the sale of the drug for recreational use.
Although Storck said the showing at the protest was positive, the issue of medical marijuana may not be an influential issue in the upcoming elections.
Mike McCabe, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, said medicinal marijuana is not a big issue in the November elections.
Lassa is running against Republican candidate Sean Duffy to fill the
seat of retiring U.S. Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., in November.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a big issue unless the candidates are smoking it,” McCabe said. “The economy and jobs are the dominant issues.”
Following an open records review, Storck said of 293 pages of documents, the only constituent opposition to the medical marijuana bill was from the Marshfield Clinic and Waushara County Sheriff David Peterson.
Some protesters, such as Jordan Cotter, blame the bill’s failure solely on Lassa.
“This is where Julie Lassa is, and she is the reason the marijuana bill didn’t get passed last year,” said Cotter.
Cotter, like many of the protesters, have a personal connection to the issue of medical marijuana.
Cotter said he began taking medicinal marijuana after a car accident that ejected him out of the vehicle and broke his neck, leaving him in extreme pain. Doctors at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee said he would never walk again, Cotter said.
“They prescribed me pain killers, but I don’t like the effects of those and I’d rather smoke some weed,” Cotter said. “It’s better for the body and the soul.”
Lassa could not be reached for comment.
Correction: Due to a reporting error, this article said Sen. Julia Lassa D-Milladore voted the medical marijuana bill down. It should have said Madison NORML believe Lassa blocked the bill, but never voted it down. We regret the error.