State Updates: Kansas and Wisconsin Consider New Cannabis Policies

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Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin are lobbying to eliminate all criminal penalties for possession of under 28 grams of cannabis flower. Unlike decriminalization measures in other states, civil citations or fines would not be issued making possession of less than 28 grams essentially legal in Wisconsin.

Currently, an initial conviction for cannabis possession, in any amount, carries a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail according to NORML. A second conviction is considered a felony offense, with steep penalties of up to $10,000 and a prison sentence of three and a half years.

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State democrats view the potential reforms as a way to introduce a more fair justice system in Wisconsin.

“For too long, Wisconsin’s criminal justice system has been anything but just,” Representative David Crowley (D), one of the bill’s sponsors, said “A generation of black men and women have been lost due to the failed war on drugs and due to mass incarceration.”

If implemented, the plan would also allow for those with previous convictions of possession (under 28g) to apply for expungement. An NPR report found that Wisconsin is considered one of the worst states for racial inequality when it comes to arrests.

“Far too many of our children are raised without both parents present due to the possession of small amounts of marijuana,” Representative Shelia Stubbs (D), another sponsor of the bill, said.

Kansas, which is known for its strict anti-cannabis policies, may finally be turning a corner on medicinal use. A special committee recommended the state legislature consider using Ohio as a guide to implement a medicinal cannabis program. Lawmakers suggested allowing cannabis patients from other states to be permitted to use infused products in Kansas. 

While these are not exactly the most radical suggestions in comparison to reforms in other states, they may signal a meaningful shift in the Kansas political narrative when it comes to cannabis. Some lawmakers believe legalization is imminent and that a solid regulation plan is necessary.

“This thing is going to go-go-go eventually, and we all need to kind of be at the table and make it a good piece of legislation to help people,” Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D) said

Democratic Governor Laura Kelly supports medicinal cannabis use but so far has not dedicated any major effort toward legalization. Any plan for legalization likely will be met with significant resistance from state Republican lawmakers as well as The Kansas Medical Society. 

“Until it’s proven medically effective, we don’t support legislating what can be prescribed in that arena,” Rachelle Colombo, the society’s director of government affairs, said.

Chad Issinghoff, a physician in Hutchinson, Kansas, was more supportive of medicinal cannabis than the medical society. He feels cannabis could help improve the quality of life for those suffering from debilitating illnesses. 

“The use of cannabis-derived medical products grows more popular each year despite its controversial nature,” Issinghoff recently told Kansas lawmakers. 

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