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The Story of Cannabis in Wisconsin: A Timeline



1908: The Beginning

In a historic experiment, hemp is cultivated near the Asylum Farm at the State Hospital for the Insane at Mendota and Wisconsin State Prison in Waupun. This endeavor was part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Fiber Investigations, created by Secretary Jeremiah Rusk, a former governor of Wisconsin. The hemp fiber was utilized for making binder twine and rope, essential for the U.S. military.


1919-1931: Wisconsin's Leadership

With federal support, Wisconsin leads the nation in hemp cultivation. In 1920, areas like Dodge, Green Lake, Fond du Lac, and Racine counties contributed more acreage to hemp than all other states combined.


1937: Regulation Era

The U.S. Marihuana Tax Act comes into play, requiring farmers to have stamps for farming hemp.


1942-1948: War Efforts

During WWII, farmers in Janesville and Clinton pledged to raise hemp as a "war crop." However, by 1948, the U.S. government ceased buying hemp, ending the price support program. Senator Robert M. La Follette Jr. won a brief exemption for hemp farmers from the Marihuana Tax Act's provisions.


1957: The End of an Era

Wisconsin processes the last commercial hemp fiber crop in the U.S.


1969: First Legalization Attempt

Rep. Lloyd Barbee introduces AB 1023 to legalize cannabis possession and sales, but it's defeated in a floor vote.


1970-1977: Legal Challenges and Decriminalization

Congress classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 illegal drug in 1970. Madison takes progressive steps, with referendums leading to decriminalization in 1977.


2009: Medical Marijuana

The Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act fails to pass, despite support from then-Governor Jim Doyle.


2014-2016: Legal Battles and Referendums

Dane County approves an advisory referendum to regulate marijuana like alcohol. The Menominee Nation faces legal challenges over hemp cultivation.


2015: Lydia's Law

The Legislature passes "Lydia’s Law," but parents struggle to find qualifying physicians for CBD oil prescriptions.


2017: A Year of Bills

Several cannabis-related bills are introduced, including "The Compassionate Cannabis Care Act" and industrial hemp legislation. The Monona City Council ends fines for possession, and CBD oil possession becomes legal with a doctor's note.


Nov. 2017: Industrial Hemp Returns

Governor Scott Walker signs a hemp bill into law, legalizing hemp cultivation in Wisconsin for the first time since the 1950s.

Today's Landscape


With a rich history and ongoing legislative action, the story of cannabis in Wisconsin continues to unfold. The state's relationship with hemp and cannabis reflects a broader national conversation, shedding light on the challenges and opportunities of this multifaceted issue.


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