Republicans mount attack against Cannabis extracts

You thought this article was going to be about Delta-8 THC, well not yet, but I bet that is coming. Rep. Knodle has already been up to some work on the issue. I was surprised not to see his name in the line up of Republicans ready to add harsher sentences to patients who use cannabis extracts, specifically butane derived extracts known as Butane Hash Oil (BHO).

Senate Bill 440 was introduced June 24th, 2021 by Republican Senators StroebelJacque and Wanggaard;

Assembly Bill 440 was cosponsored by Republican Assembly Representatives JamesAllenBrandtjenCallahanDittrich,

 GundrumHorlacherMagnaficiRamthunWichgers and Murphy

It should be noted that this BAD BHO Bill has attracted more Senators and Assembly Representatives to co-sponsor then the earlier bill decriminalizing 10 grams to a $100 fine at the state level.

The 10 Gram decriminalization bill did not attract any co-sponsors on the Senate side, leaving Republican Senator Kathy Bernier as the author for the Senate. The 10 Gram Decriminalization bill SB 164 was co-authored by Rep. Shae Sortwell (R). Sortwell brought along Schraa (R), Kitchens (R) and Brooks (R). The bill attracted two Democrats in the Assembly, Milroy (D) and Bowen (D).

Still, just seven elected officials signed onto the decriminalization bill earlier this session and now 10 have jumped in to increase the penalties for BHO.

Rep. Jesse James

The leading prohibitionist in the Assembly, Rep. Jesse James was a co-sponsor of the 2019 Republican attempt to create a medical marijuana program (the “pill bill” that did not allow smoking products or home grows).

He has been outspoken as wanting to be the lead on stopping recreational marijuana reform from happening in Wisconsin. Long time prohibitionist and mega rich man Senator Duey Stroebel was listening when Rep. James was mouthing off, and the two have collaborated to concentrate on finding some way to increase penalties for cannabis use. This bill is the result.

Rep. James is the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Substance Abuse and Prevention which Assembly Bill 440 was assigned. The 9 member committee is co-chaired by another bill co-author (Magnafici). There are only has three democrats on this committee. There are very few bills assigned to this committee as of the writing of this article.

Here is the starting line up for Rep. Jesse James. He had no problem finding co-sponsors ready to insist on more jail time as an answer.

Rep. Scott Allen (R)
Rep. Scott Allen (R)

Rep. Allen: We should point out that Rep. Allen is opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana, but believes there might be some room for expanded research into the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

“For decades, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been the agency which oversees scientific processes into the safety and efficacy of medicines,” said Rep. Allen.  “Now policymakers are being asked to preempt that process and legalize a drug for medicinal or recreational use. We need more information. The FDA and federal law enforcement can serve as conduits in gathering relevant data. Congress needs to take action to expedite relevant research.”

August 2019 Representative Scott Allen (R-Waukesha) began circulating a letter to colleagues in the Wisconsin state legislature asking federal officials to streamline medical research and collect data surrounding cannabis and marijuana. This guy has recently hosted a “SAM” Smart Approach to Marijuana seminar.

SAM are bad guys pretending to help conservative legislators navigate the coming legalization issues and he bought right into it. The “webinar” was a disaster. As far as tax revenue goes, that is another issue in legalization and Rep. Allen has indicated sin tax in general should not be used for harm preventative or education, but rather seen as a source of profit.

Rep. Janel Brandtjen

Rep. Brandtjen, Republican assembly representative from Menomonee Falls has not co-sponsored any legislation on marijuana reform since elected in 2014.  She is somewhat absent of public statements about marijuana reform. In 2020 she was unopposed in the general election.

Based off the crowd she runs with and some past listening sessions, most have her down as a failing representative on this issue and many others. As she comes out now as a co-sponsor of this bill, it seems pretty evident she is not a friend of reform and will concentrate hard on prohibition style tactics and misinformation.

Rep. Calvin Callahan (R)
Rep. Calvin Callahan

Rep. Callahan (R- ) Took over for Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) as she moved up to the Senate. Felzkowski has been an outspoken Republican trying to move something medical marijuana related into a public hearing.

But back to Callahan – he did not respond to any of our candidate surveys. Calvin Callahan (R-Tomahawk) also did not conduct a WI EYE Interview in which candidates were asked about their stance on marijuana reform.

Is it safe to assume a “file of marijuana information from the district” comes along with job change? Probably not. Is is safe to assume the incoming legislator will support what the former legislator was working on? Probably not. Case in point is this guy.

Calvin Callahan made his debut to the cannabis conversation on WPR Route 51 on March 5th, 2021 episode called “Legislative Quarterly”. Republican Callahan gives the standard “medical marijuana could be an option, but I want to learn more before making an opinion.” or something like that. Listen to the interview.

Although Calvin Callahan (R) indicates he is getting used to his job as a freshman assembly rep regarding procedures and such, he also is throwing up the signs of a prohibitionist.

Representative Barbara Dittrich Assembly District 38 (R - Oconomowoc)
Representative Barbara Dittrich

Rep. Barbara Dittrich (R – Oconomowoc). I have written a few articles about her, and probably should have wrote a couple more. She has written op-ed letters and held or supported many anti-marijuana events in her district.

This Republican assembly representative from Oconomowoc was just elected in 2018 and in her candidate interview stated she is “vehemently opposed to THC in any form”  and has not co-sponsored any legislation on marijuana reform at all during her first two years in office.   

Despite her opposition, her office conducted a 2019 Spring GOP Survey that asked about marijuana reform, and her voting base responded with support of marijuana reform. But then in Feb 2020 she Flip flopped her statements about THC/Medical Marijuana.

In facebook comments Rep. Dittrich stated “Do you know we (Republicans) have a medical cannabis bill that has been introduced? I am opposed to recreational use but not opposed to looking at medical solutions.”

Rep. Rick Gundrum

Rick Gundrum ran unopposed in 2020, let’s not let that happen again!

Governor Evers’ first budget proposal would also establish an expungement procedure for people convicted of possessing, manufacturing or distributing less than 26 grams of marijuana who have completed their sentences. Republicans who control the legislature would have to approve the budget items.

State Rep. Rick Gundrum (R-Slinger) says he’ll vote against the measure. “Unless it’s proven otherwise, I think it opens up the door to legalize it for recreational marijuana and I am definitely opposed to that,” Gundrum says. He is a member of the Assembly Committee on Substance Abuse and Prevention which will oversee this bill.

Representative Cody Horlacher Assembly District 33 (R - Mukwonago)
Representative Cody Horlacher

Cody Horlacher: Republican assembly representative from Mukwonago has not co-sponsored any legislation on marijuana reform since elected in 2014 and had no previous public statements about marijuana reform until his 2020 candidate interview on Wi-Eye.

He is an absolute No to recreational marijuana and calls marijuana a drug. He cites many problems he saw during his work with the DA office. He feels revenue from marijuana does not exceed the costs it will bring.

Regarding medical marijuana, his default is “not here, not now”, but he wants to look compassionate, so with a smug look on his face he talks some crap at the end about helping people, but closes it out with an even smugger look saying if medical marijuana people want it to lead to recreational marijuana then hell no.

Representative Gae Magnafici Assembly District 28 (R - Dresser)
Representative Gae Magnafici

Gae Magnafici: As a candidate for office in 2018 this elected official had made positives statements about supporting medical marijuana and decriminalization.

Early in the 2019 legislation session she signed onto a bill to protect the privacy of firearms owners should Wisconsin ever go medical.  We had high hopes, as she is one of the limited number of elected officials with a medical background.

Her Spring 2019 GOP Survey showed over 68% of her voter base supported medical marijuana, and patients had high hopes she would sponsor legislation her first session.  Patients were disappointed she did not sign onto either version of the medical marijuana bills this session. Her early quotes showed some compassion, but also early opposition to recreational cannabis.

Over the year or so, she seemed to regress from even her positive statements about medical and decriminalization. She seemed to flip flop according to constituents in her district and acted like she never said anything positive about marijuana reform.

She did not co-sponsor the Republican decriminalization bill as I mentioned above and instead decided that increasing penalties was a better route for her career. She is Co-Chair of the Assembly Committee on Substance Abuse and Prevention which will oversee this bill.

Rep. Tim Ramthun
Rep. Tim Ramthun

Tim Ramthum (R-Campbellsport) is next. Tim Ramthum’s 2018 statements about marijuana reform came in that August after his primary victory. With confidence that he would be elected in November, as he faced no democratic challenger.   The report broke as Fond du Lac county discussed placing marijuana referendums on the ballot. 

Ramthun said action needs to be taken at the state level, adding “We can’t say let’s all do it and it will be OK. We need structure and control.” Opposing a referendum is one thing, but running unopposed again in 2020 led Tim’s head to swell into full prohibitionist status an now is a proud co-sponsor of this bad bho bill.

Representative Chuck Wichgers Assembly District 83 (R - Muskego)
Representative Chuck Wichgers

Chuck Wichgers: Medical sales and offering conservative options for pain management was his former career before being elected in 2016, but Rep. Wichgers from Muskego offers no hope or signs of relief to the sick, dying and disabled of Wisconsin that could benefit from medical marijuana. 

Early in the beginning of the 2019 session, Rep. Wichgers made a hard stance against marijuana reform with public statements and supporting anti-cannabis event.

His public statements like “Based on experiences in other states, I remain 100% opposed to decriminalizing recreational marijuana” and “With regard to medicinal marijuana, I believe it is premature to consider legalization before its efficacy is confirmed scientifically. Only then, and with the assurance that it would be regulated as a Schedule II drug, would I support legalization” show just how dangerous this past pill pusher is. His support for this bad bill is a hard pill for Wisconsin to swallow.

Representative David Murphy Assembly District 56 (R - Greenville)
Representative David Murphy

David Murphy (R-Appleton): Friendly GOP Assembly Representatives named this guy as a possible supporter of medical cannabis reforms. I am starting to seriously doubt that.

Unfortunately, Republican Dave Murphy from Appleton has not sponsored any marijuana reform legislation since being elected to the State Assembly in 2012. During 2019, the Assembly Republicans circulated and prefiled a bill for the 2020 legislative session to create a medical marijuana program in Wisconsin (Assembly Bill 750) which Assembly Rep. Murphy did not co-sponsor. 

In February 2019 he said he would “oppose any push to legalize recreational use”, but added he would support regulated medical marijuana if it ensures the safety of public roadways. Late in the 2019-20 session, a bi-partisan effort to decriminalize 10 grams or less of marijuana in Wisconsin was introduced.

Assembly Bill 1004 did not attract the attention of Rep. David Murphy as he did not sign on as a co-sponsor.

We thought he was going to see a primary challenger in the 2020 general election, but that did not happen and his candidate statements added more reasons he is opposed.

In Oct 2020 Murphy said he is against the legalization of recreational marijuana. He said he based his opinion on conversations with law enforcement officers, many of whom are against legalizing it. He pointed to issues in other states that have legalized recreational marijuana, such as California and Colorado. In those states, marijuana continues to be sold illegally, he alleges. Marijuana use can also impact worker productivity, Murphy said, which hurts the economy.  

Rep Murphy said he would consider legalizing the drug for medical use.  He did not co-sponsor or even blink at the 2021 Republican decriminalization bill early this year and now offers this instead. I hope this moves any potential Republican challengers for this district to start his campaign now!

Senator Duey Stroebel Senate District 20 (R - Saukville)
Senator Duey Stroebel

Now onto the Senate “Death for Dabs Squad”. We know Senator Stroebel (R – Saukville) is the biggest anti-cannabis politician out there. Mega rich and runs unopposed. He voted no to hemp. We expect this crap from him. Before you say “vote him out”, in 2020 he ran unopposed.

He has plenty of help from two henchmen we will talk about in more detail. If you ever saw the mansion Stroebel lives in, you will know he lives in his own little fantasy world. Friendly GOP leaders just laugh him off in the cannabis conversation because they know, as we do, he is truly in the minority.

Senator Andre Jacque
Senator Andre Jacque

Senator Jacque offers his support for prohibition while the assembly district underneath him pushes for reform. Personal bias is a large reason for non-support. As an Assembly Representative he ignored constituents on the issue starting back in 2010.  As a Senator he repeats his past performance.

Back in 2011, then State Rep. Andre Jacque (R-Bellevue) had this to say “At this point I would be inclined to oppose it not that I think it would get to the floor, but I just think the idea has too many red flags surrounding it right now to be able to proceed,”.

Later in his career he adds “Certainly whatever imagined revenue there might be, I think there would be certainly higher costs to society,” . Jacque has another view about the potential impact [of legalization], saying it would likely increase marijuana use among younger people and result in more people using marijuana before driving.

“Clearly the values that I consider are keeping our communities safe, looking out for our children, looking out for people in general,” he said. He is the Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, that killed “Adult Use / Recreational – Medical Combo” Legislation in the past.

Guess what? He is not vice-chair anymore, but still sits on this committee and this bill is going to that very committee. Jacque is up for re-election in 2022.

Senator Van H. Wanggaard Majority Caucus Chair Senate District 21 (R - Racine)
Senator Van H. Wanggaard

And we close it out with Senator Van Wanggaard who will be the Chair of the Committee that will most likely give a public hearing to this bill he just co-sponsored.

As noted above, this Senator has killed good bills in committee and if he let’s this one go through, it will be a Republican circus. The Republican Senator from Racine was elected in 2010 and most likely will not move his stance of “just say no”.   

After coming off a nearly 30 year career with the Racine police force, he now serves as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.  In April 2019 he wrote an entire op ed piece entitled Is it high time to legalize in Wisconsin? No … The harmful effects on health and society outweigh any potential benefits.

Back in April 2019 his public statements say it all: “When one looks dispassionately at the evidence, the conclusion is clear. Following marijuana legalization, crime and traffic deaths have spiked. Organized crime and human trafficking have moved in and/or expanded. Hospitalizations and suicides have increased. The research on individual health effects is mixed at best and downright scary at worst. Taxpayers and families bear the burden of these costs — all for less than 1% of state revenues. And by the way, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The costs of legalizing marijuana for recreational use outweigh the benefits — and it’s not close.”

He goes on to say this when asked about medical marijuana: “The marijuana from the 1960s and ’70s doesn’t resemble the marijuana of today. It’s been genetically engineered over time to heighten its effects. In fact, marijuana today is three times more potent than it was just 20 years ago, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In the first three years of Colorado’s legalization, marijuana potency increased nearly 25%.

Worse yet, I recently learned from the Milwaukee Police Department that nearly all the marijuana sold in Milwaukee is laced with the highly addictive and dangerous opioid Fentanyl. While the effects of the new, more powerful strains of THC haven’t been studied in depth, the older, less powerful ones have been studied. The results aren’t encouraging.Senator Van Wanggaard is up for re-election in 2022.

Here is the letter of co-sponsorship and information that Senator Stroebel and Rep. James circulated to the rest of the elected officials. The list of co-sponsors generated from this lame attempt helps us flush out more information about these people. Is it safe to say Governor Evers should most likely would veto this bill should it pass?

To be added as a co-sponsor, please reply to this e-mail or contact Rep. James’s or Sen.Stroebel’s office by Monday, June 21 at 4:00 p.m.

Marijuana use in the United States is at an all-time high. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana use has outpaced cigarette use among 8th graders. Marijuana use among college-age adults has also climbed to a record level. As this data shows, the recent trend in marijuana use among youth and young adults has coincided with state-level legalization efforts.

As both availability and usage rates have increased, so has the potency of the main psychoactive component of cannabis (Δ-9-THC). From 1995 to 2018, the average THC level found in marijuana flower has quadrupled from roughly 4 percent to 16 percent.

Butane hash oil (colloquially known as dabs, shatter, wax, etc.) is one of the most potent and increasingly popular forms of cannabis, featuring THC levels up to 90 percent. BHO is a cannabis concentrate manufactured by pressurizing and washing butane over the marijuana plant and collecting the solution that results from the extraction process. The end product is often consumed by vaping the product directly or adding it to baked goods.

The production of BHO is very dangerous, with a growing number of incidents in recent years that have resulted in individuals being hospitalized for BHO-associated burns in both legal and non-legal states.

The consumption of BHO also carries its own set of harms. There is a strong association between the use of high-potency cannabis and the development or exacerbation of mental health and substance use disorders. These adverse effects are even more pronounced among youth and young adults. This is not to mention the negative externalities associated with more prevalent and more potent pot in terms of public safetypublic healthtraffic safety and the workforce.  

Despite the significant differences between traditional marijuana and BHO, current law applies the same classification and penalties to both. Senate Bill 440 seeks to classify butane hash oil as its own substance with increased penalties for its manufacture and possession. 

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau

Current law prohibits a person from manufacturing, distributing, or delivering, or possessing with intent to manufacture, distribute, or deliver, marijuana. The penalties for violating the prohibition range from a Class I felony to a Class E felony, depending on the amount of marijuana involved. Under this bill, the penalty increases to a Class E felony, regardless of the amount of marijuana involved, if the person uses butane extraction in the manufacturing of the marijuana or in separating the plant resin from a marijuana plant.

Current law also prohibits a person from possessing marijuana. The penalty for violating the prohibition is a Class A misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class I felony if the person has previously been convicted of a controlled substances crime.

Under this bill, the penalty for such a repeat offense is greater if the marijuana the person possesses is resin that has been directly or indirectly separated from a marijuana plant by butane extraction. The penalties for possession of such resin vary based on the amount: three grams or less is a Class H felony; more than three grams but not more than 10 grams is a Class G felony; more than 10 grams but not more than 50 grams is a Class F felony; and more than 50 grams is a Class E felony.

Because this bill creates a new crime or revises a penalty for an existing crime, the Joint Review Committee on Criminal Penalties may be requested to prepare a report.

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  1. Sample Opposition Letter #1:

    I am writing to inform you of my opposition to Senate Bill 440. The proposed changes would take the great state of Wisconsin deeper down the road of cannabis prohibition, further separating the state’s citizens from the expanding economy generated by the cannabis market. Creating harsher penalties for butane-created cannabis items does not take them off the shelf in other neighboring states, nor does it eradicate their existence. The users of these products, if caught in Wisconsin, will become a tax burden to the state. According to a study performed by the Vera Institute of Justice, in 2015 it cost an average of $38,644 annually to house an inmate in Wisconsin state prison(Vera Institute of Justice). The proposed legislation would add financial obligations to our taxpayers to house non-violent offenders, as this legislation is based only on possession charges.

    The neighboring states of Michigan and Illinois have taken a different approach, realizing that this same person for whom Wisconsin might decide to spend $38,000 annually to keep in prison is capable of generating income for the state by paying taxes. Furthermore, these states have recognized that cannabis users can in fact be a positive influence to the community. Rather than ostracize, ignore, and pay to incarcerate an entire community of largely non-violent people, Wisconsin could follow suit and create the infrastructure to safely manufacture and distribute these products, which are clearly in public demand. Leaving these products unregulated is far more dangerous than acknowledging their demand and using it to generate income for the state under regulated conditions, which are intended to ensure user and manufacturer safety and accountability.

    In conclusion, Senate Bill 440 is a bad idea for Wisconsin because it creates harsher penalties for non-violent offenders, which result in longer prison sentences that ultimately cost taxpayers and the state more money. I implore you, the reader, to consider the financial burden it takes to incarcerate a cannabis user, and to compare that with the financial expanse of the emerging cannabis market. Wisconsin continues to ignore a potential revenue stream, and Senate Bill 440 will take us even further from that potential.

    Vera Institute of Justice. “Price of Prisons, Examining State Spending Trends, 2010-2015.” Vera Institute of Justice Price of Prisons, May 2017, Accessed 12 July 2021.

  2. I am 100% against Senate Bill 440 and I believe it takes our state in the wrong direction. It will result in additional expense, loss of tax revenue, and will make it more difficult to attract younger citizens/workers to our state.

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