Republican lawmakers Rep. Mary Felzkowski and Sen. Kathy Bernier have introduced a bill that seeks to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin.

It would permit physicians, nurses, and physician assistants to prescribe marijuana in liquid, oil, pill, topical or tincture format to treat various medical conditions. It would also create a Medical Marijuana Regulatory Commission, made up of legislative and gubernatorial appointees, to oversee the program.

Wisconsin is one of just 17 states in which medical marijuana remains illegal. Democrats have introduced a number of bills seeking to change that status in recent years, but Republican opposition in the GOP-controlled legislature have routinely killed them off.

A medical cannabis bill introduced in October was signed by 36 Wisconsin Democrats, but just one Republican. Earlier this year, Republican lawmakers rejected a proposal from Gov. Anthony Evers that sought to decriminalize possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana.

In September the leader of the state Senate, Scott Fitzgerald, reiterated his opposition towards legalizing medical marijuana, warning it would lead to increased traffic accidents, rising hospital visits and recreational legalization. He said proposed legislation would be a tough sell to his caucus.

Yet there are signs that the state’s Republicans are starting to change their tune when it comes to medical marijuana. Fellow Republican Reps. Pat Snyder, Michael Schraa, and Shae Sortwell also signed the draft legislation and issued a joint statement along with Felzkowski and Bernier, urging colleagues in both chambers to back the bid to legalize cannabis for medical purposes.

Felzkowski is a cancer survivor and she said everybody knows someone who has struggled through an illness. “Medical marijuana is just another tool in the toolbox to help our suffering loved ones make it through the day with some semblance of normalcy,” she said.

She pointed out that 16 counties and two cities even voted for referendums on medical marijuana in the mid-term elections. A Marquette University Law School poll in April showed 83% of respondents in Wisconsin supported legalizing medical marijuana and 59% backed full legalization.

Wisconsin is one of only 11 states in which marijuana is fully illegal, and proponents of liberalization have called it an island of antiquated drug policy in a sea of decriminalization.

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