State Rep. David Bowen

Last week, the Assembly approved a bill that would ensure no arrests are made for the possession of cannabinoid (CBD) oil in Wisconsin. I supported both sending this legislation out of the Committee on Children and Families and passage in the full Assembly because, while it is about the smallest step we could possibly take, any step in the right direction toward ending the undue stigma and prohibition of this beneficial plant is good. However, this legislation does not go nearly far enough.

CBD has a great deal of potential benefits for people of all ages. The committee heard heart-wrenching testimony from the loved ones of children suffering from conditions whose lives could be saved, or could potentially have been saved, by the seizure alleviating capabilities of CBD.

What does this legislation actually do for Wisconsinites? If signed into law by the governor, it would simply allow for the possession of CBD in Wisconsin without fear of being arrested. Unfortunately, despite their artificial majorities in the legislature, the GOP did not have the courage to get behind legislation that would have allowed for the production or delivery of CBD in Wisconsin, leaving Wisconsinites at the risk of making illegal online purchases instead of permitting CBD’s safe manufacture here in our state.

Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison), the ranking Democratic member of the committee, introduced an amendment that would have allowed for both the production and delivery of CBD in Wisconsin. The amendment failed. All Democrats voted in favor of production and delivery. All Republicans voted against making this important reform for Wisconsinites seeking help for their families.

Since it is still categorized as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government, CBD, as a derivative of the marijuana plant, is still technically illegal according to federal law. However, in defending this legislation, the bill’s authors said the federal government has shown in other states that it will not enforce federal prohibition.

Of course, that is also the reason 28 states plus the District of Columbia and some US territories have been able to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, while others have expanded access to CBD by allowing its production and delivery. Instead, parents looking to do whatever is necessary to help their kids have to order the medicine on the internet or travel to neighboring states like Minnesota where production and dispensaries are not prohibited by state government.

If it’s OK to ignore the federal government on possession of CBD, why not use the same justification to permit producing and dispensing CBD in Wisconsin? The current president has indicated support for legal marijuana for medicinal purposes, so why fear federal intervention? When asked, the bill’s authors gave no good answer, only pointing out that they didn’t think they had the political ability to convince their Republican colleagues to support legislation that went further. I beg to differ.

Their colleagues voted almost unanimously to approve this tiny change – certainly some of them would join Democrats who are interested in delivering actual results for Wisconsin families. We owe it to the families of children who can realize potentially life-saving relief from CBD to follow this effort up with more aggressive legislation just as urgently as this bill was taken up. The 2017-18 legislative session is still young. Let’s allow Wisconsinites the freedom to care for their families.

Written by David Bowen

David Bowen

State Rep. David Bowen is the Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.