Opinion: Wisconsin should relax laws on marijuana

Opinion: Wisconsin should relax laws on marijuana

Marijuana free stock photo

Effective Jan. 1, people age 21 or older will be allowed to purchase and consume marijuana in Illinois for recreational purposes.

‘We’re going to be an island.”

That was the statement from state Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha, when asked about the possibility that marijuana would become legal in Wisconsin.

Starting Jan. 1, recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois. It was already legal in Michigan. And Minnesota is one of 33 states that allow for medical marijuana.

And despite overwhelming public support for making medical marijuana legal in Wisconsin — a Marquette University Law School poll showed that 83% of Wisconsinites support legal medical marijuana — prospects of it happening anytime soon seem dim.

Wisconsin Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is strongly opposed to legalization, and when two of his GOP colleagues introduced a bill recently to legalize medical marijuana on a very limited basis, he quickly shot it down.

Republican refusal to even talk about medical marijuana is, as Ohnstad said, making Wisconsin an island. And that puts pressure on law enforcement in the state, particularly the border areas.

While local law enforcement has issued warnings about trying to bring marijuana over the border, you can bet plenty of people living north of the border will be heading south, hoping to buy legal weed and bring it back to Wisconsin.

“That artificial state line is not going to keep people from using,” said Guida Brown, executive director of the Hope Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse. “I think it’s highly available already, and this will lower inhibitions to trying it, because it’s ‘legal’.”

Brown does not favor legalized marijuana — saying there’s no concrete way to gauge marijuana impairment, similar to a breath test for alcohol — but admits the time has probably come for the legalization of medical marijuana in Wisconsin.

And there may be some incremental movement in that direction. Though Fitzgerald won’t consider any move toward legalizing marijuana, Assembly Majority Leader Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has said he favors medical marijuana with restrictions.

And while Vos said he believes medical marijuana will become legal, he admitted it won’t be soon.

“I want this to become law, but people have to trust that it’s going to be a deliberate process; it’s going to take a while,” Vos said. “We’ve got to convince people that it’s the right idea, and eventually it will become law.”

It’s time for Wisconsin to start moving in that direction, instead of remaining an island in the upper Midwest.

This editorial is reprinted with permission from the Kenosha News.

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