Marijuana leaf in the sunset | Kym MacKinnon on Unsplash
A Senate bill that would increase penalties for using cannabis extracts passed 5-1 in the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety on Thursday. The bill would increase already existing felony penalties for possession or distribution of extracts with concentrated THC oils, like butane hashish.
The bill, which would continue the drug war against cannabis in Wisconsin, passed the committee without any discussion. Committee chair Sen. Van Wanggaard moved to recommend the bill for passage. In early October, the bill’s Assembly counterpart was discussed in the Assembly Committee on Substance Abuse and Prevention. Both committees are controlled by Republican majorities.
In the Assembly committee discussion, Rep. Jesse James (R- Altoona) repeatedly compared butane hash oil and similar products to methamphetamine. He pointed to the manufacturing process which, if done improperly, can be dangerous due to flammable components in the process. The bill’s penalties, which mirror proposed legislation around fentanyl production and distribution, were crafted by the West Central Drug Task Force, comprised of law enforcement representatives from six counties stretching from the Mississippi River to the middle of Wisconsin.
More than half of U.S. states have legalized cannabis, including states that border Wisconsin, as well as Canada. Republicans shot down attempts by Gov. Tony Evers to fully legalize cannabis in Wisconsin. Evers’ proposed framework could have brought an estimated $165 million in tax revenue, which he proposed putting into an $80 million community reinvestment fund. Meanwhile, local municipalities have moved to lower penalties around cannabis possession while the plant remains illegal. Cannabis has been decriminalized in Madison, and fines in Milwaukee for simple possession have dropped to not more than $1.
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