Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MADISON - The leader of the state Senate all but ruled out adopting medical marijuana legislation Friday, just hours after backers released their bill on the issue.
Supporters had hoped they could gain traction on the bill because of support from some Republicans who control the Legislature. But one of the Legislature's most powerful leaders quickly said he opposed the measure.
“Everyone knows that medical marijuana leads to legalized marijuana," said a statement from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau. "We’ve already seen that some states with easier access to marijuana have seen an increase in emergency room visits and impaired driving accidents. I don’t support this plan and I think that it’s going to be a tough sell to a majority of my caucus.”
Fitzgerald — who announced Tuesday he is running to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner — has long been skeptical of medical marijuana. His comments on Friday were some of his strongest against the idea.
Republicans this spring rejected a part of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' budget that would have allowed medical marijuana. But supporters of the idea have expressed optimism because GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester announced in June he wanted to explore such legislation this fall.
Backers' enthusiasm was further buoyed Friday morning when Republican Sen. Patrick Testin of Stevens Point unveiled the bill with two Democrats.
Any momentum supporters gained was undercut hours later when Fitzgerald issued his statement.
Testin in a statement said marijuana had helped his grandfather, who had lost much of his vitality because of bone and lung cancer.
“I saw him make the decision to go outside the law to seek treatment with medical marijuana," Testin said. "It restored his appetite, and I believe it added months to his life. Doctors and patients, not government, should decide if cannabis is the right treatment.”