Wisconsin, the land that gave us Paul Ryan, Scott Walker and former sheriff Richard Clarke— malformed half-offerings from a higher power who ran out of copier toner and just gave up—is lagging far behind other nearby states in getting right with marijuana reform. Instead of waiting on state lawmakers, a handful of Wisconsin cities are legalizing marijuana on their own.
Wisconsin and Cannabis Legalization
Like everywhere else in the U.S., a majority of the citizenry in Wisconsin favors legalization—and unlike nearby Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and even North Dakota, Packers fans don’t enjoy so much as a workable medical marijuana system.
In Wisconsin, medical cannabis is limited to CBD oil only. There is a legalization bill in the state legislature—but considering it would require cooperation and a signature from Walker, currently on a holy quest to force all of the state’s welfare recipients to submit to urinalysis, it’s safe to assume cannabis reform at the state level is still a few big steps away.
Absent state action, that leaves city governments free to change marijuana policy within municipal limits. So far, two Wisconsin cities are legalizing marijuana, including Madison, the state capital and home of the flagship University of Wisconsin campus. Now, deciders in Stevens Point, a college town of about 27,000 people in the middle of the state, plan to legalize marijuana within city limits.
Stevens Point is already one of the most progressive cities in the state on cannabis, decriminalizing possession of five grams or less in 2014. The city will now allow anyone 21 and over to legally possess an ounce or less if a City Council proposal is approved. And unlike marijuana reform in many other places on earth, the city’s police chief is on board.
As the Stevens Point Journal is reporting, City Council member Mary McComb is working with the activist who put together the decriminalization efforts—a leukemia survivor—and plans to draft the legalization proposal for introduction in October.
According to the paper, McComb thinks that people who consume cannabis should be treated the same way as people who consume alcohol. “In my mind, it’s like punishing people for having a gin and tonic,” she said.
She added: “We’re in a different world now. Let’s get with the program.”
The main driving force behind the legalization push is Ben Kollock, a local leukemia survivor who suffered through the disease without the benefits of medical marijuana. Doctors told him cannabis would have helped, but if he wanted any, he’d be on his own and would risk criminal arrest and prosecution.
This is, of course, very stupid. Significantly, this is a revelation shared by local police Chief Michael Koval. Unlike his fellow leaders in law enforcement around America, whose chief targets for arrest are drug users, Koval said he’d rather spend his time chasing violent crime including domestic violence.
“You are literally creating a (court) record of arrest and prosecution that will remain with someone for the rest of their lifetime,” he told the newspaper, before committing something close to apostasy in beer-friendly Wisconsin, the home of Pabst, Schlitz and Miller.
Beer drinkers, the chief of police in this Wisconsin town said, get special privileges they don’t necessarily deserve. “Why has one group of individuals now been criminalized and stigmatized and labeled, while the other group has the implication of a glorified right of passage?” he asked.
Final Hit: Wisconsin Cities Are Legalizing Marijuana Themselves
It’s not yet clear how easily the legalization proposal will pass the Stevens Point City Council. Earlier cannabis reform proposals have had some opposition; an earlier decriminalization effort was approved by a 7-to-4 vote—but legalization is a bigger step.
Madison passed its marijuana allowance law way back in 1977. Since then, attitudes across the country have changed significantly, as has medicine’s understanding of cannabis’s healing powers.
Typically, legalization works like this: medical first, then adult use. But since Wisconsin cities are legalizing marijuana without waiting on the state, the step that focuses on medical marijuana may be dispensed with entirely.