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DrydenWire.com recently published a post titled: Gov. Evers Announces Proposal To Reform Wisconsin's Marijuana Laws. There were several parts to the proposal. I sent out an email to five local Sheriffs, several Chiefs of Police, and Lawmakers to get their take on the proposal. You can read their answers to my questions from those that chose to respond below.
(1) Would you support the governor's proposal as a whole (or would you support portions of the proposal)?
Barron County Sheriff, Chris Fitzgerald: I have always been a supporter of Medical Marijuana but would like it to be in pill form, I believe the MN law is like this. If this can help someone and a doctor thinks it will then the doctor should be able to prescribe it, just like the other medicine out there. I do not support any of the other parts of the proposal.
Polk County Sheriff, Brent Waak: Absolutely will not support this proposal. I have dedicated 24 years of service in law enforcement and have never witnessed the benefit of using marijuana. When I made a marijuana arrest, I always tried to leave the jail and offer some encouraging words with the arrested person. Those words were “using marijuana will never lead you to success in life, at best you will be a place holder in our society.” “I hope you seek treatment for your problem” I believe it is wrong to promote getting high. This sends the wrong message to the youth of America. I am shocked to hear that Governor Evers is so pro-education in one breath, but supports using marijuana in the other breath. I believe the two issues counteract each other. I have concerns about the secondary effects of using marijuana and its effect on others exposed to it. Wisconsin has worked hard to regulate smoking tobacco and now rolls out this proposal. Again I believe it is counterproductive. Finally, from a public safety issue, do we want people operating under the influence of marijuana sharing the roads with our family and friends? Impaired driving is a large concern.
Sawyer County Sheriff, Doug Mrotek: I do NOT support legalizing marijuana as it is a gateway drug. I have never talked to or seen where a user of Meth or Heroin didn't use marijuana first. I strongly believe that legalizing marijuana in any way will make our drug problem much worse!
Wisconsin 25th District Senator, Janet Bewley: The Governor’s proposal is just that, a proposal and I’ll need to see actual legislation before committing to anything. As with all proposed bills, the details are critically important and I’d want to share the actual bill or bills with a broad range of stakeholders in northern Wisconsin to get their input.
Wisconsin 73rd District Representative, Nick Milroy: The governor has not yet submitted his budget, so I haven’t had the opportunity to review the actual language. In addition, I would want to hear from the public on this issue before committing to supporting or opposing a specific proposal.
Wisconsin 75th District Representative, Romaine Quinn: First and foremost, this issue should not be brought forward in the state budget. The legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes or for recreational use deserves a much greater conversation, and it is a conversation that should be had outside the potential contentious budget debate. Since I’ve been in office, Republicans frequently took Governor Walker’s policy items out of the budget so that we could debate them separately, and we should do the same for Governor Evers’ marijuana policy. I do not believe someone who occasionally uses marijuana to be a bad person. In fact, we all have neighbors or professionals in our communities that have or still occasionally use marijuana. That being said, we can’t pretend that full legalization won’t have negative consequences on our state. Both pro and anti-legalization advocates can be found guilty of ignoring the facts or sensationalizing their arguments when it comes to this debate, so I would support a much more open, transparent conversation in Madison around the issue. I believe that is something everyone can support.
(2) Would you support legalizing medical marijuana?
Hayward Police Chief, Joel Clapero: Although I am opposed to legalizing marijuana under most scenarios, I am open to considering medical marijuana if a credited doctor decides that it would be beneficial for a patient to use medical marijuana. I would like to see some further research on this subject. Especially if the research would indicate that marijuana could keep people of off opiates and the dangerous addictions they create.
Sheriff Fitzgerald: If our main purpose is to help people with illnesses the medical part will do this.
Sheriff Waak: No, I feel that legalizing medical marijuana is the gateway to legalizing recreational marijuana.
Senator Bewley: I’ve expressed willingness to look at making medical marijuana legal in Wisconsin, as long as we have the proper framework and safeguards in place and am open to lessening the criminal penalties associated with the use and possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Rep. Milroy: If done properly with sufficient safeguards and regulations, I would support Marijuana being legally prescribed and used as a medicine.
Rep. Quinn: Yes, if done correctly. If somebody is battling chronic pain or terminal illness and some form of marijuana could improve their overall health, why should I stand in the way of that? Why are we OK with letting people consume addictive pain killers, but we won’t even allow them to try an alternative? Marijuana is not some silver bullet that will fix every illness as some proclaim, but in some instances, it could very well prove to be a positive substitute for certain narcotics. The real change needs to happen at the federal level. Since marijuana is a schedule I drug, there is limited research that can be done. Why would we not want our medical community to be able to tell us both the pros and cons of marijuana usage? We fully understand the short and long-term negative effects of using tobacco and smoking cigarettes, why not marijuana? The federal government currently places methamphetamine in a lower class of drugs than it does marijuana. That doesn’t make any sense considering the devastating effects meth is currently inflicting on our communities, and it clearly shows we need further research on the topic.
(3) Would you agree with aligning WI law with Federal standards in regards to CBD oil?
Sheriff Waak: No, again, I believe we are really hiding the true agenda here, which is the legalization of all marijuana. I will not support this initiative.
Senator Bewley: I’ve long been a supporter of allowing people to use CBD Oil and was one of the authors of the bill we passed in 2014 to make its use legal in Wisconsin.
Rep. Milroy: Yes.
Rep. Quinn: I have previously voted in support of allowing people to use CBD oil. However, I have not specifically seen the difference between state and federal standards when it comes to CBD oil, so I am not sure.
(4) Would you support decriminalizing possession, manufacturing, and distribution of marijuana in the amount of 25 grams or less?
Sheriff Fitzgerald: I don't see the need to decriminalize it.
Sheriff Waak: I want to be clear in my position; I am opposed to any legalization of marijuana.
Rep. Milroy: Yes. We need to focus our resources on drug dealers and their suppliers and not waste our time and money on people that use small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
Rep. Quinn: The first question I would ask is how did Governor Evers come to conclude that 25 grams is the correct amount? A person can “manufacture” or sell 25 grams of marijuana, but not 26? What’s the difference? I also find it interesting that Democrats rail against Republicans for taking away local control, but on this issue, they want to deny our communities the ability set their own policies in relation to marijuana. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, nearly 65% of Colorado’s municipalities have banned the recreational use of marijuana since full legalization occurred in their state. What do they know that we do not? Why shouldn’t our own locals be able to have similar authority? Again, this shows the need for the Legislature to be able to discuss this issue outside of the budget, where we can have experts come and testify before the Senate and Assembly committees and understand the fuller picture.
(5) In conjunction with the 25 grams or less idea, Evers is proposing that anyone that has served their sentence or probation, that their record be expunged. The second part to this question, how do you feel about this proposal when it says local municipalities cannot establish their own ordinances or penalties for 25 grams or less? Your comment?
Sheriff Waak: I believe that expunging a conviction record for clear law violations is wrong. Your history should follow you. Also, addiction to drugs is a question on the purchase form of a firearm. It states on a firearms transaction record” Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.” Ironic that the gun control advocates who want strong backgrounds checks and more control on who should be allowed to possess a firearm, advocate for marijuana use and expunging criminal records. I find it again to be hypocritical. To be clear, I am not a gun control advocate, I strongly support the second amendment, I am just pointing out that currently, an addiction to marijuana is a denial reason to buy a firearm.
Rep. Milroy: I agree that people should not be penalized for the rest of their lives for non-violent drug use.
Rep. Quinn: I believe we need to have a greater conversation when it comes to expungement. It is important that we protect our community, but I am also a believer in second chances. If somebody made a dumb mistake when they were younger and served their time, why should they have to struggle their entire adult life afterward?