Medical marijuana bill deserves a chance

Local families to testify at hearing in Madison


A pair of local families are taking their case for the legalization of medical marijuana to Madison next week.

Both families have children who suffer from seizures, a condition that is sometimes treated with cannabis oil extract, but that treatment is not legal in Wisconsin.

Efforts to legalize medical marijuana, which this newspaper has supported, have gone nowhere in Wisconsin, despite a clear trend among states to accept it. At least 20 states allow some uses of medical marijuana, including Illinois, which just began a four-year pilot program,

On Wednesday the Assembly’s Committee on Children and Families will hold a public hearing on Assembly Bill 726, a bill that narrowly targets cannabis oil extract as a legal treatment for seizure disorder if prescribed by a medical practitioner. State Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha, and state Sens. Bob Wirch, D-Somers, and John Lehmann, D-Racine, are among the sponsors of the bill, which has sponsors from both parties.

Rebecca Arnold of Pleasant Prairie, whose 9-year-old daughter Raegan has epilepsy, and Sally Schaefer of Burlington, whose 6-year-old daughter has seizures, both plan to testify at the hearing Wednesday. Their stories, featured in the Kenosha News on Friday, ought to have some impact. The families have tried other medicines with no long-term relief. It seems cruel to deny them an opportunity for relief just because the medicine is derived from marijuana.

In the Arnold family’s case, a medicinal treatment that works could make a serious brain surgery unnecessary. That is a very high potential reward for a legislative step that has very little risk.

Marijuana, even though it is illegal, is quite popular as a recreational drug. That won’t change if the Legislature passes or rejects the bill to make cannabis oil extract legal as a treatment for seizures.

What might change is some families may find relief from having to constantly try new medicines, some of which have side effects, to control a child’s seizures.

We think the Legislature should be open to more legitimate uses of marijuana, but at the very least, this narrowly written piece of legislation ought to move forward.