Wisconsin and more than 30 other states passed medical cannabis laws in the 1970’s and 1980’s. While a number of states have repealed these laws, some remain on the books.
Both Wisconsin and South Carolina still have a “Therapeutic Cannabis Research Act” (TCRA) as part of their statutes. According to Columbia, SC television station WLTX, a South Carolina state lawmaker, Democratic Minority Leader J. Todd Rutherford, recently authored an amendment to a controlled substances bill that would have allowed the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to “create a program for farmers to grow marijuana and licensed physicians to prescribe it for patients.”
These laws came to be thanks to the tireless efforts of the first legal medical cannabis patient, Robert Randall and his wife Alice O’Leary in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Randall, a glaucoma patient who sued federal authorities to obtain medical cannabis supplies to treat the disease, visited Wisconsin on July 31, 1979 to lobby for the TCRA.
While Rep. Rutherford’s amendment was voted down, he told WLTX he has more plans to address medical cannabis both before the end of the current session next month and again next year.
The South Carolina medical cannabis law was passed in 1980. Here is the relevant text of the SC Law Code: SECTION 44-53-650:
“SECTION 44-53-650. Director to obtain and distribute marijuana.
(a) The director shall obtain marijuana through whatever means he deems most appropriate consistent with federal law.
(b) The director shall cause such analyzed marijuana to be transferred to various locations throughout the State that provide adequate security as set forth in federal and state regulations for the purpose of distributing such marijuana to the certified patient in such manner as is consistent with federal law. The patient shall not be required to pay for such marijuana but the director may charge for ancillary medical services provided by the department to compensate the department for the cost, if any, of securing such marijuana, and providing it to the patient.”
Wisconsin’s TCRA was passed by bipartisan majorities in both houses and signed into law by the then Republican governor, Lee Sherman Dreyfus, in April 1982.
Here is the text of the TCRA from the current Wisconsin statutes:
“961.34 Controlled substances therapeutic research. Upon the request of any practitioner, the controlled substances board shall aid the practitioner in applying for and processing an investigational drug permit for marijuana under 21 USC 355 (i). If the federal food and drug administration issues an investigational drug permit, the controlled substances board shall approve which pharmacies can distribute the marijuana to patients upon written prescription. Only pharmacies located within hospitals are eligible to receive the marijuana for distribution. The controlled substances board shall also approve which practitioners can write prescriptions for the marijuana.
History: 1981 c. 193; 1983 a. 189 s. 329 (18); 1985 a. 146 s. 8; 1995 a. 448 ss. 16 to 19; Stats. 1995 s. 961.34.”
Rep. Rutherford’s attempt to making medical cannabis available to state patients through amending the existing but symbolic state law offers yet another approach in trying to open up patient access. But considering the state of politics in Wisconsin at the current time an effort like Rutherford’s here would stand about the same chance as it did in South Carolina.