Wisconsin hemp bill draws opposition from law enforcement due to THC provision

MADISON -- A bipartisan bill is on the table in Madison for those growing and selling hemp.

At a public hearing in Madison, the authors of the hemp bill explained it is broadly designed to help farmers, retailers, and consumers turn a profit, but some members of law enforcement voiced their concern about a provision in the bill meant to prevent someone who consumed a product made with trace amounts of THC from being charged with an OWI.

"It wouldn't matter how that THC was ingested, whether that be through legalizing hemp, through the use of medical marijuana or through the use of illegal marijuana use," said Bernie Coughlin with the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association.

"The main reasons for us to do this differently, outside of doing it with the feds, aligning with the feds, is because I didn't want us to have any loopholes in there for our farmers to end up being criminalized because they have a hot crop," said Senator Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee.

Law enforcement officials said as long as the THC provision is taken out, they're OK with the bill.

Senator Taylor issued this statement on this issue:

On Thursday, Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) testified at a public hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions on SB 188, relating to regulating hemp, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, granting rule-making authority, and making an appropriation.  After the hearing, Taylor released the following statement:

“We need to get this right.  The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill brought with it opportunities and unintended consequences for Wisconsin’s burgeoning Hemp industry. SB 188 is a bill that will help Wisconsin update both the language and practices associated with Hemp production in the state.  It’s a clean-up bill.”

“Of immediate concern to me was correcting the language in current law that has the ability to criminalize Wisconsin farmers that participate in certain aspects of the Hemp industry. Other fixes were technical, like ensuring that the state remains the primary regulator over hemp and can obtain the needed equipment and tools to aid their oversight.  In addition, we need to create licensing processes for distribution, retail, and transportation, develop a testing industry, and stop others from what has been termed ‘climbing the wall’ or bringing Hemp products into Wisconsin from other states.”

“SB 188 is a great start and I appreciate working alongside Senator Testin and Representatives Considine and Kurtz to get this done.”