Cannabis in Wisconsin is illegal with the exception of non-psychoactive CBD oil and industrial hemp. Various fines and prison terms apply to cannabis possession, sale, or cultivation.[1] CBD oil was legalized in 2014, but under tight controls and for a very limited number of conditions, primarily seizures. Wisconsin was historically a major producer of industrial hemp until 1958, though a 2017 law has re-opened Wisconsin for hemp farming.[2]

Industrial hemp[edit]

Industrial hemp was grown experimentally in Wisconsin as early as 1908 on state farms under the direction of the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station.[3][4]

The Rens Hemp Company of Brandon, Wisconsin, closed in 1958, was the last legal hemp producer nationwide in operation following the World Wars.[5] Prior to its 1958 shutdown, Rens had been the primary provider of hemp rope for the United States Navy.[6]

In November 2017, Governor Scott Walker signed a law legalizing the cultivation of industrial hemp (containing under 0.3% THC), following unanimous approval of the bill in the Legislature.[7]


The 1939 legislation "161.275 Possession and use of marijuana; penalty" stated that the penalty for "growing, cultivating, mixing, compounding, having control of, preparing, possessing, using, prescribing, selling, administering or dispensing marijuana or hemp" would be no less than one year and no more than two years in the state prison.[8] Currently, possession of any amount (first offense) is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in prison and a $1,000.00 fine. Possession of any amount for a subsequent offense is a felony, punishable by up to 3.5 years in prison and a $10,000.00 fine.[9]


State level[edit]

CBD oil legalization (2014, 2017)[edit]

In April 2014, Wisconsin Act 267 (2013 Assembly Bill 726) was enacted. The legislation nominally legalized the use of cannabidiol (CBD) in the state for treatment of seizure disorders. It was passed by a voice vote in the Assembly and a unanimous 33–0 vote in the Senate. It was renamed "Lydia's Law" by an act a month later in honor of a seven-year-old girl who suffered from a rare form of epilepsy; the girl's parents had pushed for CBD legislation in the state.[10] The bill was criticized as being largely symbolic, as in order to gain support for passage in the Senate, its sponsors added a clause specifying that CBD oil must have FDA approval to be prescribed; prior to that clause the bill had support in the Assembly but was stalled in the Senate. Because CBD did not yet have FDA approval, and because a complex series of steps were required to allow trial usage, Wisconsin doctors were not allowed to prescribe CBD.[11] As a result, CBD advocates stated that they could not find a doctor in Wisconsin willing to prescribe CBD. In mid-2015, a state legislator proposed an amendment to remove penalties for possession of CBD oil, negating prescription requirements, but the amendment still would not provide a legal way to create or obtain CBD oil.[12]

In February 2017 the Wisconsin Senate passed Senate Bill 10,[13] a bill allowing people to possess CBD oil, by a vote of 31-1.[14] Senate Bill 10 amended Lydia's Law (2013 Act 267), which allowed access to CBD oil under limited circumstances in Wisconsin. Senate Bill 10 allowed for possession of CBD oil in Wisconsin if a doctor has certified the oil is being used to treat a medical condition. In addition, the bill required Wisconsin follow suit if CBD oil is rescheduled at the federal level. In March 2017, the Wisconsin Assembly passed Assembly Bill 49[15] unanimously, 98-0,[16] sending Senate Bill 10 / Assembly Bill 29 to Gov. Scott Walker, who signed the bill into law in April 2017.[17]

Other reforms proposed[edit]

In 2013 and 2015 State Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) introduced bills to fully legalize cannabis in the state, with no success.[18][19] In 2017 another such bill was introduced.[20]

In February 2019, newly-elected governor Tony Evers announced that his upcoming budget would include a proposal to legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes, decriminalize for any use possession of up to 25 grams, and establish an expungement procedure for convictions involving less than 25 grams.[21][22] Evers has also previously spoken in support of legalizing the recreational use of cannabis,[23] though this was not included in the proposal.

Lower-level jurisdictions[edit]

Madison decriminalization (1977)[edit]

In April 1977, Madison voters approved a ballot measure to allow the possession of up to 112 grams of cannabis in a private area. For possession in public, offenders would be subject to a $109 fine unless used under the care of a doctor. The law was one of the earliest municipal decriminalization ordinances passed in the nation.[24]

Milwaukee (1997)[edit]

In May 1997, Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist signed a bill to make the first-time possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis a non-criminal offense, punishable by a fine ranging from $250 to $500 or imprisonment of up to 20 days.[25] The legislation also allowed offenders the option to perform community service or take drug education classes.[25] In 2015 the penalty for possession of up to 25 grams was further reduced to a $50 fine.[26][27]

Dane County (2014)[edit]

On April 1, 2014, residents of Dane county voted on a non-binding referendum to indicate whether or not state lawmakers should pass legislation to allow the recreational use of cannabis. The measure passed with 64.5% of the vote.[28][29]

Menominee Indian Reservation (2015)[edit]

In August 2015, members of the Menominee Indian Reservation voted 677 to 499 to legalize cannabis for recreational use and 899 to 275 to legalize cannabis for medical use.[30][31] The Menonimee are uniquely positioned in the state, as the only Indian reservation that falls solely under the jurisdiction of federal law (rather than under Wisconsin Public Law 280 like all other reservations in the state), meaning that the state of Wisconsin cannot prevent legal changes within the sovereign reservation.[32]

2018 advisory referendums[edit]

In November 2018, voters in eleven Wisconsin counties approved non-binding referendums expressing support for legalizing medical cannabis, and voters in six counties approved non-binding referendums expressing support for legalizing recreational cannabis.[33][34] The support for medical cannabis ranged from 67.1% in Clark County to 88.5% in Kenosha County, while support for recreational cannabis ranged from 60.2% in Racine county to 76.4% in Dane County.[35] The 16 counties that weighed in accounted for over half the state's population.[35]

Eau Claire (2018)[edit]

In November 2018, Eau Claire city council members approved a resolution setting a $1 fine for first-time possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis (though with court costs included the total comes to $138).[36] The resolution came a few weeks after voters in Eau Claire County approved a non-binding referendum expressing support for legalizing the recreational use of cannabis.[37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wisconsin Laws & Penalties". Retrieved 2015-08-20.
  2. ^ NBC15. "Walker signs bill legalizing hemp farming in Wisconsin". Retrieved 2017-12-02.
  3. ^ United States. Bureau of Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineering (1908). Report. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 39.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ United States. Dept. of Agriculture (1910). Report of the Secretary of Agriculture. The Department. p. 77.
  5. ^ TAPPI Journal. Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry. 1999. p. 114.
  6. ^ John Roulac (1 January 1997). Hemp Horizons: The Comeback of the World's Most Promising Plant. Chelsea Green Pub. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-930031-93-0.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Wisconsin (1939). Wisconsin Statutes, 1939: Printed Pursuant to the Provisions of Section 35.18 of These Statutes, and Embracing All General Statutes in Force at the Close of the General Session of 1939. Legislative Reference Bureau. pp. 1893–. STANFORD:36105064280782.
  9. ^ "Wisconsin Laws & Penalties". NORML. Retrieved April 23, 2020.
  10. ^ "Gov. Walker Renaming Wisconsin Act 267 "Lydia's Law" in Honor of Girl, 7". WSAW. May 21, 2014.
  11. ^ Ferguson, Dana (June 16, 2014). "Law allowing marijuana derivative for treatment of seizures remains unused". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  12. ^ Mark Schaff (April 20, 2015). "'Lydia's Law' passes, but treatment still elusive". Racine Journal-Times.
  13. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: SB10: Bill Text". Retrieved 2017-03-10.
  14. ^ "2017 Senate Vote 12". Retrieved 2017-03-10.
  15. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: AB49: Bill Text". Retrieved 2017-03-10.
  16. ^ Times, Jessie Opoien | The Capital. "Wisconsin Assembly unanimously approves bill to ease access to CBD oil". Retrieved 2017-03-10.
  17. ^
  18. ^ REP. MELISSA SARGENT (Democratic Wisconsin Assembly member) (2015-04-13). "Rep. Melissa Sargent: Marijuana legalization must happen in Wisconsin : Ct". Retrieved 2015-08-20.
  19. ^ Marley, Patrick (2015-04-13). "Democratic legislator to introduce bill legalizing pot". Retrieved 2015-08-20.
  20. ^ "PDF download - 2017 Wisconsin LRB-2457 Marijuana Legalization Bill" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-02-08. Retrieved 2018-02-07.
  21. ^ Dupont, Amy (February 18, 2019). "'It's time:' Gov. Tony Evers announces proposal to reform Wisconsin's marijuana laws". WITI. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  22. ^ Sommerhauser, Mark (February 17, 2019). "Tony Evers to propose pot decriminalization in budget, medical use for cancer, PTSD, chronic pain". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  23. ^ Bauer, Scott (January 16, 2019). "Evers supports legalization of recreational marijuana". Associated Press. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  24. ^ Cullen, Sandy (April 10, 2007). "30 Years Later Madison Voters Passed A Law In April 1977 That Permits Possession Of Small Amounts Of Marijuana In Private Places". Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  25. ^ a b "Milwaukee Moves To Decriminalize Marijuana". NORML. May 22, 1997. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  26. ^ Taylor, Beverly (June 2, 2015). ""This is not a free for all:" Fine reduced for possession of small amounts of marijuana". WITI. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  27. ^ Storck, Gary (June 13, 2015). "Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett Quietly Signs Pot Fine Reduction Ordinance". Archived from the original on November 11, 2018. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  28. ^ Craver, Jack (April 2, 2014). "Dane County pot referendum passes easily: What does it mean?". The Capital Times. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
  29. ^ "Dane County State Legalization of Marijuana Referendum, Question 2 (April 2014)". April 4, 2014. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  30. ^ Spivak, Cary (August 21, 2015). "Menominee tribal members approve on-reservation marijuana use". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  31. ^ Williams, Scott (August 21, 2015). "Menominee back legal marijuana". The Shawano Leader. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  32. ^ Spivak, Cary (2015-08-16). "Menominee tribe prepares for vote on legalizing marijuana". Retrieved 2015-08-20.
  33. ^ Behm, Don (November 6, 2018). "Pro pot: Voters support all marijuana advisory referendums on Tuesday's ballots". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  34. ^ Anderson, Scott (November 6, 2018). "Who Voted For Marijuana In Wisconsin? We Have The Answer". Patch. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  35. ^ a b Hubbuch, Chris (November 8, 2018). "Wisconsin voters embrace pot; nearly 1 million vote yes on medical, recreational use". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  36. ^ Kremer, Rich (November 28, 2018). "Eau Claire Sets $1 Fine For Marijuana Possession". Wisconsin Public Radio. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  37. ^ Casey, Evan (January 14, 2019). "Marijuana laws changing one city at a time; Eau Claire passes $1 fine". The Journal Times. Retrieved March 17, 2019.