State News

Democratic state representatives advocate for marijuana legalization on ‘weed holiday’

Wisconsin may see looming marijuana legalization if the bill passes in fourth session, but some constitutions are still unsure if the benefits will outweigh the negatives. 

Image By: Thomas Yonash

Several Democratic legislators in Wisconsin proposed to join the increasing number of states across the country by legalizing marijuana April 20, a holiday recognized by marijuana enthusiasts. 

Although constituents are split on the extent its legality should be — medical or recreational — a referendum in the November election showed a large majority support decriminalization and legalization to an extent.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes took to Twitter on April 20 to repost a Fox article written four years ago in which he was interviewed showing his support for reversing the prohibition to increase economic stability across the state and equalize the justice system. 

“I’m not sure at what point in American history marijuana become the big enemy here,” Barnes said in the piece. “We’re not talking about people who are out selling drugs to children. We are talking about people who are in simple possession.”

Barnes also retweeted a public service announcement from Ben and Jerry’s ice cream company, which addressed the disproportionate level of white people who make money off of legalized weed, compared to people of color who are convicted of possession and related charges. 

Ben and Jerry’s encouraged their followers to spend April 20 “making sure legalization doesn’t leave people of color behind and expunging everybody’s cannabis conviction.”

Long-time legalization supporter Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, re-introduced a bill to legalize the soft drug completely throughout the state on April 18. She expressed her reason for proposing this bill with such consistency is because she believes the “most dangerous thing about marijuana in Wisconsin is that it is illegal.”

“When I first ran for office, I would have never imagined myself introducing legislation to legalize marijuana,” Sargent said. “Far too many lives and communities have been damaged by out-of-date and backwards cannabis policies, and we must take this important and necessary step toward rectifying these damages.”

Legalizing medical marijuana with decriminalization of marijuana possession would yield net benefits for Wisconsin at a value of $1.14 billion according to research performed by the La Follette School of Public Affairs at UW-Madison in 2018. 

Despite this, many people across the state have their hesitations. A video compiled by the Wisconsin Assembly GOP Twitter account showed some Republican constituents who are not in support of legalization. 

One man said he believes weed is a gateway drug and legalization is irresponsible because it shows a lack of protection over children. 

However, research from the Drug Policy Alliance shows marijuana could help decrease the opioid epidemic by creating an alternative medication for patients. 

“For many seriously ill people, medical marijuana is the only medicine that relieves their pain and suffering, or treats symptoms of their medical condition, without debilitating side effects,” the report read. “Marijuana has been shown to alleviate symptoms of a huge variety of serious medical conditions including cancer, AIDS, and glaucoma, and is often an effective alternative to synthetic painkillers.”

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