Republican lawmakers unveil bill to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV/AP) -- The push to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin is growing.

Two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Mary Felzkowski and Sen. Kathy Bernier, have introduced a new measure to legalize medical marijuana in the state.

"There's a ton of people who can't take painkillers or opioids because they react to that, this is just another tool for our medical profession to use," Felzkowski said.

Democrats have tried to legalize medical marijuana for years, with little to no Republican backing. But in recent years, some Republicans have come to support loosening Wisconsin's marijuana laws.

Two Madison area Democrats, Sen. Jon Erpanbach and Rep. Chris Taylor, quickly applauded the fact Republican legislators were willing to consider the bill.

“At some point, GOP leadership needs to realize that Wisconsin has quickly fallen behind, Sen. Erpanbach (D-Middleton). Our neighboring states have legal cannabis in some form, and Wisconsin residents overwhelmingly support it for medical use."

However, they argued the bill could keep individuals from getting access to medicines and touted a new bill they are working on with other members on both sides of the aisle.

“Wisconsin lags behind the majority of states in offering needed medical relief through cannabis for those battling serious illness. Our bipartisan bill incorporates the needs of patients and prioritizes their right to access the health care they deserve,” said Rep. Taylor (D-Madison).

Democratic Rep. Melissa Sargent of Madison said legalizing medical marijuana is not enough, and has proposed several bills that would fully legalize cannabis.

"I'm not sure why it is that we would put a band-aid on an issue that the people of Wisconsin are hungry for us to be taking bold, pragmatic approaches too," Sargent said.

The bill unveiled Wednesday would allow the prescription of marijuana for some conditions. Marijuana that is smoked could not be prescribed.

Even with the GOP support, the bill faces long odds in the Senate. Republicans there have voiced more opposition to the idea than in the Assembly.

In a joint statement, Felzkowski and Bernier, along with Reps. Pat Snyder, Michael Schraa, and Shae Sortwell said because of the widespread interest in such a measure, they believe it is time to debate the issue.

They pointed out that 16 counties and two cities even voted on referendums for medical marijuana in the mid-term elections.

Felzkowski said she hopes the bill gets a public hearing to start the conversation.

Read the original version of this article at www.nbc15.com.