MADISON (WKOW) -- Two state lawmakers are spearheading the push for legalization of marijuana for medicinal use in Wisconsin.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) named their proposals after Jacki Rickert, who led a 210-mile wheelchair journey in the state to advocate for medical marijuana. Rickert suffers from a condition that affects tissue and joints and said marijuana use has helped alleviate her pain and stimulate her appetite to help her keep on weight.
In 2007, advocates testified before state lawmakers on the benefits of using the drug for medical purposes, but no legislation advanced. Both the state assembly and senate now have democrats in the majority. Governor Doyle has said he supports the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes as long as a doctor's prescription is part of the requirements.
Proposals in the assembly and the senate would involve people who qualify for medical marijuana to be part of a registry maintained by the Department of Health Services.
Under the proposals' terms, members of the registry would be allowed to cultivate marijuana for medicinal use; or obtain medical marijuana from non-profit compassion centers registered by DHS. Marijuana production and possession amounts would have limits.
The bills also create a legal defense for people possessing marijuana for medicinal purposes.
The Obama administration recently called for a hands off policy from federal enforcement agencies when it comes to medical marijuana. While medical marijuana is legal in 13 states, it is still federally prohibited.
Erpenbach said legalizing medical marijuana will spare otherwise law abiding families from having to resort to illegal activity, including one family he's aware of with a family member dealing with cancer.
"So what happened was their family members had to go out on the street and buy pot. That should not be illegal."
Pocan said the focus of the proposals is to present people with cancer, AIDS and other conditions another legal, health care option.
Board director Dr. Michael Miller of the Wisconsin Medical Society said the group opposes the proposed legislation.
Miller said smoking marijuana is hazardous, with no control over the purity or dosage of the drug.
Miller also questioned the medical rationale for medical marijuana legalization in the thirteen states.
"In none of those has this so-called medicine gone through the approval process like the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) would do for any other medicine, looking for issues such as safety and efficacy."
But Miller said his group is interested in more study of the potential benefits for patients of receiving the ingredients of marijuana, as long as smoking is not the delivery system.
The American Medical Association recently urged the federal government to reassess its Schedule I controlled substance categorization of marijuana so that clinical research can be carried out on the drug's potential for medicinal use.
Pocan said Michigan's recent enactment of law to allow medicinal marijuana occurred as the result of a statewide referendum with more than 60% support for medical marijuana legalization.
The assembly and senate medical marijuana bills will be the subject of a combined public hearing Dec. 15. Erpenbach said senate majority leader Sen. Russ Decker is open to advancing the senate bill.
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