Republicans set to further criminalize cannabis extracts

While some Republican lawmakers will not support the legalization of cannabis in Wisconsin, bills to further criminalize cannabis continue to be introduced. The GOP’s Majority Assembly committee on drug addiction and prevention held a hearing on a bill on Thursday (AB-440) which would increase criminal penalties associated with butane hash oil and related products. Hash oil is a concentrated form of THC cannabis that can be vaporized or consumed in edible form. These kinds of extracts have also received the term “dabbing”, after a particular way of vaporizing the product.

Representative Jesse James (R-Altoona) testified on the focus of the bill on butane extracts but the measure also covers more generally the manufacture of cannabis. Under current law, the bill states that the costs of manufacturing, distributing, delivering and possessing cannabis can result in criminal charges varying in severity depending on the amount of cannabis involved. “Under this bill,” the bill states, “the penalty increases to a Class E felony, regardless of the amount of marijuana involved, if the person uses butane extraction in the manufacture of the marijuana and to separate the vegetable resin from a marijuana plant. . In addition, the bill also increases penalties for those previously charged with cannabis when facing new charges for THC extracts or resin.

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James said the specific reinforced felony charges were requested by the Central West Drug Task Force. The task force consists of six counties, including the Sheriff’s Offices of Clark, Chippewa, Eau Claire, Dunn, Buffalo and Pepin, as well as the municipalities of Chippewa Falls, Fall Creek, Eau Claire, Altoona, Menominee and Durand. The Wisconsin State Patrol, the Department of Criminal Investigations and the University of Wisconsin campuses at Stout and Eau Claire are also members of the task force. The task force is made up of 12 full-time investigators and three part-time investigators, with the Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office serving as the project director since the task force began in 1988.

James called the bill “eerily similar to the fentanyl bill that has also been introduced.” He claimed that the high THC potency of the extracts makes them more potent intoxicants, with a THC of between 80% and 90% or more. James pointed out throughout his testimony that some methods of making extracts using butane can pose a risk of chemical reaction and explosion. In particular, James pointed out “the open loop system,” which he described as a cheap but risky way to make hash. “Growing marijuana in your home won’t cause an explosion,” James said. “It could start a fire if you don’t take good care of your lights and everything. But this process in itself is almost similar to a meth lab. James also pointed out the dangers of counterfeit and contaminated THC vaping cartridges.

Representative Kristina Shelton (D-Green Bay) asked if the bill would have a negative impact on a future legalized market. And while James had described explosions from open-loop manufacturing systems run by inexperienced people, Shelton stressed that the bill does not specifically address the open-loop system. It also does not distinguish between people making homemade hash oil and professionals with commercial equipment. “My concern is if and when we – and I’ll say when because I believe we’re going to eventually legalize marijuana, I know not everyone agrees with me, but I’ll say when. … When we legalize marijuana, if we passed this bill… would this bill ban a closed loop system that would be considered safe by professionals, using professional grade equipment? James conceded, “I would suspect there would be a conflict there, statutorily.”

While Shelton doesn’t think people should make butane hash oil in their homes, she said she hoped James would clarify the language of the bill. James said he was open to a restructuring of the bill, although he wondered if the bill would hold even if the state legalized cannabis. James and other Republicans on the committee continued to compare hash-making with methamphetamine. Rep Patrick Snyder (R-Schofield) appears to be unsure whether hash is being sold legally in certain states, “or if it is a black market thing on the side that you have to go to someone.” James noted that “it’s legal” in cannabis-friendly states and available at dispensaries.

Although Gov. Tony Evers proposed a $ 165 million taxed and regulated cannabis market that would fuel an $ 80 million community reinvestment fund, the move was rejected by GOP legislative leaders. Some municipalities, including Milwaukee and Appleton, have passed local ordinances that provide for possession fines not exceeding $ 1. In the city of Madison, possession of cannabis has been decriminalized. The neighboring states of Wisconsin, as well as Canada, have some form of legalized cannabis market. Meanwhile, Wisconsin continues to host archaic and flawed drug war policies and execution.


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