A hearing on Assembly Bill 440 held by Wisconsin’s Assembly Committee on Substance Abuse and Prevention included discussions on how the bill would increase felony penalties for butane hash oil and other extractions.
The Wisconsin representatives consider marijuana extract manufacturing practices to be as dangerous as meth-making processes. For some Wisconsin legislators, the manufacturing process for extracts makes them distinctly different from the cannabis flower. Because of that difference, they believe the punishments should also be different.
Hash oil, wax, shatter, live resin, and rosin were all cited as concentrates that were concerning, but butane hash oil was the main target in lawmakers’ crosshairs. Some methods of making extracts include using butane – in particular, the inexpensive but risky “open-loop system” – which carries a level of danger not present in cultivating marijuana plants. It is these methods that have drawn the attention of Wisconsin lawmakers.
“Growing marijuana in your home is not going to cause an explosion,” Representative Jesse James said. “It could cause a fire if you don’t properly take care of your lamps and everything like that. But this process [of making extracts] in and of itself, it’s almost similar to a meth lab.”
Wisconsin isn't the only state keeping a close eye on cannabis concentrates, however. Over the summer, Colorado set new limits on daily concentrate purchases in an effort to reduce access for teenagers to the potent extracts.
Depending on the quantities involved, possession, delivery, distribution, and manufacturing of cannabis can currently result in felony charges in Wisconsin. The West Central Drug Task Force requested the enhanced felony charges for extracts.
“Under this bill, the penalty increases to a Class E felony, regardless of the amount marijuana involved, if the person uses butane extraction in the manufacturing of the marijuana and in separating the plant resin from a marijuana plant,” the bill reads. Additionally, the bill would increase penalties for people with past cannabis-related charges when/if they face new charges for THC extracts or resin.
“My concern is if and when we — and I will say when because I believe that we will eventually legalize marijuana, I know not everyone agrees with me but I’m going to say when,” said Representative Kristina Shelton. “…When we legalize marijuana, if we were to pass this bill… would this bill prohibit a closed-loop system that would be considered safe by professionals, using professional-grade equipment?” she questioned.
Despite local areas like Milwaukee and Appleton “legalizing” cannabis with local ordinances that levy fines for possession of no more than $1, Wisconsin remains an “island of prohibition” with neither adult-use nor medical cannabis sales legally allowed.
Currently, over 80 percent of Wisconsin citizens support legalizing medical cannabis, and over 60 percent support legalizing cannabis for adult use. It certainly seems like the residents of America’s Dairyland are looking forward to being able to purchase glass jars filled with herb at some point in the future, even if that day is a long way off at present.