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March 09, 2006

Wisconsin Assembly Bill 740 regarding the medical use of marijuana -- Born: October 11, 2005 - Died: March 9, 2006

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, March 9, 2006

March 9, 2006: Today, Wisconsin Assembly Bill 740, relating to the medical use of marijuana, died in committee from legislative neglect after a short life of only 150 days. AB-740 was preceded in death by the 2003-2004 session's AB-892, the 2001-2002 session's AB-715, and the 1997-1998 session's AB 560.

In those 150 days, an estimated 10, 825 Wisconsinites were diagnosed with cancer and 4496 families lost a loved one to the disease. Others faced multiple sclerosis, AIDS, glaucoma, chronic pain and other serious illness. But rather than addressing this urgent need that most people support, our dysfunctional legislature instead focused on issues that divide us.

And while AB-740 was a bipartisan bill sponsored by a Republican, Rep. Gregg Underheim, it's death was also a bipartisan effort.

At a November public hearing, some Republicans scorned the bill and were hostile to supporters. Other members helped kill it by omission, by refusing to take a position and scuttling an expected vote by the committee, like Rep. Tom Nelson (D-Kaukana). It seemed as if only the committees' two physicians, Democratic Reps. Chuck Benedict and Sheldon Wassermann, truly got it, but their colleagues apparently never asked their opinion.

While a vote in committee was never assured, patients who traveled long distances in pain to publicly share private, highly personal information certainly expected one. However, that decision was left up to an out of state lobby group. According to a statement from Rep. Underheim's office, the group felt a loss in committee here might negatively affect pending legislation they supported in Minnesota and Illinois. The Minnesota bill lost in committee last Thursday. The fate of the Illinois bill is still pending as I write.

Underheim was certainly free to make whatever decision he felt was proper. However, in the end, patients were not protected, incumbents unwilling to go on record in an election year were protected, and politics again trumped both compassion and science. To Wisconsin patients, it feels like one step forward and three steps back.

Posted by Gary at March 9, 2006 10:19 AM

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