A married couple so far has avoided marijuana charges after providing Baraboo police with doctors’ notes and other documentation during an incident in which they were found with a small amount of pot and a smoking pipe during a local political event Saturday.
Baraboo Police Department Sgt. Mark Lee and Det. Jeremy Drexler investigated a report of a dog left in a car during Fighting Bob Fest at the Sauk County Fairgrounds in Baraboo. While speaking with Madison residents Greg and Karen Kinsey about the complaint, the officers reported seeing a marijuana pipe through the car window. Police confiscated it along with a small amount of marijuana found in the car, though the issue involving the pet was resolved.
Neither of the Kinseys was charged with marijuana or paraphernalia possession, after both provided officers with signed documentation from Wisconsin doctors who recommended the use of medical marijuana. Karen Kinsey also says she provided authorities with a valid Oregon medical marijuana registry card.
The husband and wife say their prescriptions for medical marijuana are intended to help with Crohn’s disease and treat the pain of scoliosis, respectively.
Greg Kinsey serves as secretary of Wisconsin’s National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws chapter. Friend Gary Storck, co-founder of Is My Medicine Legal Yet? also was with the couple when officers responded. The three cited little-known state legislation on the books since 1971 that saved them from immediately being charged with drug crimes, though police say an investigation into the matter is ongoing.
He and wife Karen Kinsley claim exemptions in the Wisconsin Controlled Substance Act allow for them to possess marijuana with a physician’s recommendation.
The couple spent some time discussing the statutes with police, who ultimately declined to issue possession charges at the scene, and instead deferred the matter to the Baraboo City Attorney Mark Reitz for possible prosecution as a city ordinance violation.
Reitz said he has not yet reviewed the report, but stated after examining the state statute, “If the person in possession of the marijuana had a valid prescription, then that is valid in Wisconsin.”
He also pointed out that the law requires a “valid prescription or order of a practitioner.”
“I have no idea if there is a valid prescription or any other details of this case at this time however,” he stated.
Baraboo Police Chief Mark Schauf said officers are following up on the statements given to them by the Kinseys. “There may be charges, there may not. We haven’t gotten to that point yet.”
Schauf said he could not release medical information involved in the case, specifically whether the Kinseys had valid prescriptions to use marijuana.
He also said the case has not impacted the way police enforce drug laws.
“As police our job is to make sure we have all the information before we make enforcement decisions,” he said. “It is still illegal to possess or use marijuana in Wisconsin.”
He added Wisconsin doctors cannot prescribe marijuana for medical uses.
“The Catch-22 is that THC is not identified as a therapeutic medicine in Wisconsin and so it cannot be prescribed,” he said.
Despite the legal disagreement, the Kinseys said they appreciated the way Baraboo Police handled the matter.
“I thought it was awesome they listened to us,” Karen Kinsey said. “I don’t know if the Oregon card or if a letter from your Wisconsin doctor is any better than the other. I felt more like an activist than a criminal.”
Det. Drexler declined to comment, citing the open investigation, but said the encounter was “very friendly.” Sgt. Lee is on vacation and could not be reached for comment.
“We had all agreed there was no urgency to the matter,” Greg Kinsey said. “I expect a letter saying they have decided to file no charges, return my tiny bit of weed, and smile as I graciously shake their hand in front of media, getting my medicine back. If charges are filed, they will be fought. Even for an ordinance violation.”
Storck and the Kinseys pointed to a 2004 Sauk County ruling in which drug charges against Sun Prairie resident Cheryl Lam were dismissed. Lam had moved to Wisconsin after obtaining a legal prescription for marijuana as a California resident.
Schauf said that case is not relevant to whether a Wisconsin resident can receive a legal prescription to use marijuana.
Storck says several other cases have quietly recognized or upheld the legality of certain medical marijuana use in Wisconsin, citing instances in Waukesha and Outagamie counties. Around 60 Wisconsinites have valid Oregon permits, according to Storck. Oregon began issuing out-of-state permits in 2010.
Still, there are major questions surrounding the use of medical marijuana in a state that has not sought to change its laws amid a groundswell of marijuana legalization, under varying circumstances, nationally.
“Wisconsin’s law remains on the books as symbolic, with no means of supply,” Storck said.
The state Legislature has shot down repeated attempts to consider more comprehensive medical marijuana reforms. As a result, the 1971 law remains on the books with few restrictions or qualifying conditions.
“My read is that it is up to the physician’s discretion as to if their patient would benefit from cannabis, or if the patient has reported it helps and the physician concurs that their condition has improved,” Storck said.
A representative from the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office did not respond to a message seeking comment for this article.