While Wisconsin voters elected a progressive to the U.S. Senate, Tammy Baldwin, with a long history of supporting medical cannabis on Nov. 7, they also returned control of the State Senate to Republicans, who continue to control the State Assembly by wide margins.
In the Senate, Republicans emerged with a preliminary 17-15 majority in the Senate with Sen. Jessica King, the Democrat who upset GOP Senator Randy Hopper in a recall last summer, refusing to concede so far with a recount possible. A special election to be held in December in the Waukesha area is expected to pad the party’s power in the 33-member Senate to an 18-15 majority. The GOP will continue to hold a very comfortable majority in the State Assembly, with three races looking at recounts.
With the GOP firmly in control, the potential of progress on medical cannabis legislation would appear stalled, with Republicans generally very cool to the idea in the Badger State. The retirement of State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), the lead sponsor of medical cannabis legislation in the Assembly since 1998 will also trigger a transition. Pocan was elected to the U.S. Congress filling the seat held by Tammy Baldwin since 1998. Pocan can be expected to take his advocacy on the cannabis issue to Washington, D.C. and he has handed off state medical cannabis to Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) who will be the lead sponsor of the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act (JRMMA) going forward.
Pocan will be the only new face in Wisconsin’s congressional delegation, with incumbents returning to office in all other congressional districts. Democrat Rob Zerban, who told supporters he supported medical cannabis, lost to incumbent Paul Ryan, who while holding his congressional seat lost the U.S. vice presidency to incumbent Joe Biden.
The historic votes in Colorado and Washington State for cannabis legalization will be felt in Wisconsin. Nationally, marijuana prohibition is less and less popular and Republican domination of Wisconsin State government cannot dim that.
Wisconsin’s marijuana laws are some of the worst in the Midwest and there is still no statewide decriminalization law and second offense, any amount, remains a mandatory felony. While I’m not holding my breath, it is possible that the GOP could see the potential for cost savings by moving to reform state pot laws, which have not seen any major revisions since the early 1970s.
The new two-year legislative session begins in January 2013.