Sunday, May 5, 2024

What would marijuana reclassification mean in Wisconsin?

From JSOnline:

The Biden administration is expected to reclassify the federal government's position on marijuana, shifting it from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug.

Jessie Opoien
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

MADISON – The Biden administration is expected to reclassify the federal government's position on marijuana, shifting it from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug, The Associated Press first reported.

The change would mean the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration would treat marijuana as a drug that can be lawfully prescribed as medication, rather than one believed to be highly dangerous, addictive and without medical use.

The move wouldn't fully legalize the drug, but would follow recommendations by the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Justice to place marijuana alongside drugs like testosterone, ketamine, Tylenol with codeine and anabolic steroids — substances deemed to have "moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence."

Schedule III drugs can be legally prescribed by licensed health care providers and dispensed by licensed pharmacies.

Marijuana has been a Schedule I drug since the Controlled Substances Act was signed in 1970.

What would reclassification mean for Wisconsin?

Probably not much, at least at first. Marijuana is illegal in Wisconsin, and the DEA reclassification would not fully address the inconsistencies between federal restrictions and state laws.

But it could open the door to additional research, which would further inform policymakers as they consider changes going forward.

The Wisconsin Medical Society supports reclassification, "with the goal of facilitating the conduct of clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods." The organization has previously opposed "medical" marijuana proposals because of the lack of scientific research available on the drug, particularly which elements of the plant have therapeutic potential and which could cause harm.

Is marijuana legal in Wisconsin now?


Marijuana use of any kind is illegal in Wisconsin. Penalties for possession vary. A first offense in a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $1,000 fine. Additional offenses are charged as felonies.

Transporting marijuana from one state back to Wisconsin is a federal crime because cannabis is still illegal under federal law.

Have elected officials considered legalization?


Democratic proposals to legalize marijuana have generally been met with GOP resistance. In recent years, some Republican lawmakers have shown interest in legalizing cannabis for medicinal use, but have struggled to reach consensus.

Most recently, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and other Assembly Republicans put forward a medical marijuana bill that would have created state-run dispensaries and would not allow users to smoke cannabis.

Senate Republicans opposed the bill's proposal to create government-run dispensaries, and Senate President Chris Kapenga questioned the wisdom of legalizing marijuana for any reason.

How popular is the idea of legalizing cannabis use?

Wisconsin is one of 12 states where recreational or medical marijuana is not available.

Using marijuana for medical purposes with a doctor's approval is a popular idea among Wisconsin voters — 86% supported it in a January 2024 Marquette University Law School poll. In the same poll, full legalization was supported by 63% of Wisconsin voters.

What about all the cannabis products already for sale in Wisconsin?

recent investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Examination and found that chemical cousins to marijuana — with names like delta-8, HHC and THCH — are prevalent in Wisconsin at gas stations, strip mall dispensaries and even tourist shops.

The investigation found that these largely unregulated products are causing a sharp rise in reports of children and adults getting sick, alarming doctors and public health researchers.

The emergence of delta-8 and similar products can be traced to the 2018 Farm Bill, when Congress legalized the sale of hemp and products extracted from it. Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant that has low levels of delta-9 THC, the psychoactive compound that gets people high. 

USA TODAY contributed.


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