State News

Anti-marijuana forums spark debate on legalization

A recent forum in Waukesha discussed the potential negative impacts of marijuana in hopes of convincing legislators that legalization would be wrong.

Image By: Téalin Robinson

An anti-weed forum held in Waukesha brought attention to the politically polarizing issue of marijuana legalization in Wisconsin Thursday.

The discussion was open to the general public, with attendance ranging from police to fellow first responders, school counselors and state lawmakers, according to WISN 12 reports. 

Ed Shemelya, a retired Kentucky State Police Trooper, discussed what he called “factually incorrect information” about marijuana, which leads to voting on potential marijuana legalization.

“Why people vote the way they do in a lot of instances is because they don’t have the information,” Shemelya said.

The information presented by Shemelya included usage rates of marijuana among young people that affected school performance, frequency of driving under the influence and other unintended consequences of using marijuana.

Shemelya’s panel also discussed the increased potency of marijuana today and how it has become a danger to teenagers in legalized states because of how much stronger the drug has become. 

In a November ballot referendum, 77 percent of Waukesha County voters supported medical marijuana. Eleven other counties in the state also had a majority among voters who supported medical marijuana reforms.

Many believe the possibility of medical marijuana legalization in the state may have the most traction since 2009, when Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle supported it. 

Newly elected Gov. Tony Evers expressed his support for medical marijuana legalization during his campaign and also said he will side with voters on the issue of recreational marijuana.

Since then, Gov. Evers has introduced a proposal to decriminalize marijuana for possession of up to 25 grams in hopes of decreasing the presence of non-violent criminal offenders in prisons.  

However, the Republican-controlled Senate may be a hurdle to medical marijuana legalization in the state. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, has publicly expressed he would not support medical marijuana legalization.

“I don’t see the support. I don’t support it,” Fitzgerald said in December.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, however, has not ruled out legalizing medical marijuana but is against recreational use.

With the legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan and preliminary bills in Illinois to introduce legalization, Wisconsin lawmakers have polarizing decisions to make in the near future to determine whether or not the state will join the trend of many U.S. states legalizing marijuana.

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