Tuesday August 14 is the Wisconsin partisan primary in which a number of candidates are vying for the nomination to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by U.S. Senator Herb Kohl. Tammy Baldwin, the current 2nd district congresswoman is the sole Democratic candidate.
Baldwin, a longtime supporter of medical cannabis dating back to her days in the State Assembly and before will be facing the winner of the GOP primary. Her position has been consistently and strongly supportive and she has regularly cosponsored federal medical cannabis legislation in Congress.
The four candidates running in the GOP primary are former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, Businessman Eric Hovde and former congressman and perennial candidate Mark Neumann.
Reached today, Eric Hovde’s campaign office said Hovde, “did not support legalizing any drug”. Fitzgerald and Neumann have not expressed support for medical cannabis. But Tommy Thompson is a different story.
The former Wisconsin Governor, state legislator and U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary is well known for having multiple positions on the same issue, like Obamacare or gun control. Another such issue would be medical marijuana.
As the Assembly’s Republican Minority Leader in 1982, Thompson voted for LB697, the Therapeutic Cannabis Research Act (TCRA), which passed the Assembly on February 23, 1982. Although he voted for then Rep. David Prosser’s motion to send the bill back to committee, when it was rejected he joined the majority in the 77-19 vote for passage. The TCRA went on to pass the Senate and was signed into law by then-Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus and remains on the books today.
Sixteen years later, running for a fourth term as governor, Thompson was slammed by the group Project Vote Smart after his campaign used information on Garvey’s support for medical cannabis from their website to attack Garvey.
A news blurb from 1998 summarizes Tommy Thompson’s medical cannabis position of 1998:
Two Candidates Disagree On Marijuana – (STATEWIDE) — Wisconsin’s two top candidates for governor have very different views on marijuana. Governor Tommy Thompson does NOT support the use of marijuana for any reason… and opposes decriminalization for medical use. He says that would send the wrong message to kids. Democratic challenger Ed Garvey disagree… saying it should be all right for sick people to get prescriptions to use Medicinal Marijuana!
During his tenure as George W. Bush’s Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Thompson was unsympathetic to attempts at another cannabis rescheduling petition and litigation under the federal Data Quality Act to attempt to compel federal authorities to update their information to the scientific level.
In 2007, running for the Republican nomination for president, Tommy Thompson was at Brown’s Seabrook Lobster Pound in New Hampshire courting voters when a member of the group Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana asked him, “Legislators and voters in 12 states (now 17 and Washington DC) have passed laws protecting seriously ill residents who use medical marijuana with their doctor’s approval; our current federal policy is to raid and arrest these patients. When you’re elected president, will you respect the will of the voters in these states and end the raids on state medical marijuana programs?”
According to Granite Staters, Thompson responded by saying, “I will stop the raids, yes.”
In May 2010, A group of Wisconsin medical marijuana supporters received advice from Tommy Thompson at his brother Ed’s restaurant, the Tee Pee, to lend a hand to Ed’s campaign for Wisconsin State Senate.
Both Tommy and Ed dropped by the meeting, a statewide Wisconsin medical marijuana strategy session/workshop. More than 30 medical cannabis activists from around the state were present, including local elected officials, state legislature candidates, an attorney, and activists leaders from a wide swath of Wisconsin.
Tommy Thompson offered two pieces of advice for getting medical marijuana legislation passed in Wisconsin:
1. “Elect this guy” (Ed Thompson, to the Wisconsin State Senate).
2. Pass the hemp bill first, as it already has bipartisan support, and it’s easier to vote for medical when you’ve already voted for hemp.
Earlier, Ed Thompson had addressed the meeting and reiterated his longstanding support for medical marijuana. He also vowed to cosponsor medical marijuana legislation if elected.
Within a couple months, Ed Thompson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He had to curtail campaigning because of cancer treatments and narrowly lost the State Senate election to Kathleen Vinehout, the incumbent. Ed passed away from complications of pancreatic and bone cancer on October 22, 2011. By then, Tommy Thompson was already in the early stages of his campaign for the US Senate.
Does Tommy still support ending the targeting of medical cannabis dispensaries and passing a state medical cannabis law? Did he really believe what he said in 1998 about allowing the sick and dying, the vets and the seniors, cancer patients and those in horrible pain, that having their medicine sends a bad message to children? Would he support medical cannabis if elected? Many voters would like to know.