Rhinelander leaders weigh in on governor’s proposed marijuana reforms
By Eileen Persike
Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday he will include proposals to legalize medical marijuana and suggest other marijuana reforms in his first state budget, set to be unveiled later this month. Under the proposal, it would be legal for a doctor to recommend the use of marijuana to alleviate symptoms of certain conditions, such as cancer, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and others.
State Rep. Rob Swearingen said he hasn’t seen a solid proposal from the governor yet.
“I’d be willing to look at a proposal for medical marijuana as long as it was prescribed by a doctor and filled by a licensed pharmacy,” Swearingen said. “I don’t know how much of a stomach there is for that in the legislature, but it’s something I personally would be willing to look at.”
Medical marijuana, Rhinelander Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier said, is a subject he and his peers anticipated Evers would be “pushing forward.”
“The media and the pro-cannabis advocates have really pushed this medical marijuana and the legalization as a good thing,” Gauthier said, adding “It’s been known for many, many years that marijuana, along with alcohol, is a gateway drug.”
Gauthier cited an article published in a New York college publication, Imprimis, based on a portion of a speech given by author Alex Berenson about his book, “Tell Your Children: The Truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence,” that states some information commonly believed about cannabis use is not accurate.
“There’s a linkage between the psychosis that happens with cannabis use and violence, but there is a lot more research that needs to take place,” Gauthier said. “Now that people are using it and abusing it, there are mental health ramifications from the legalization of it.”
Like most controversial topics, an internet search will yield research articles on all sides of the issue. In his press release, Evers stated it’s time for Wisconsin to join more than 30 other states in legalizing marijuana for medical use.
“As a cancer survivor, I know the side effects of a major illness can make everyday tasks a challenge. People shouldn’t be treated as criminals for accessing a desperately-needed medication that can alleviate their suffering,” Gov. Evers said. “Wisconsinites overwhelmingly agree that this is a critically important issue.”
Additionally, Evers’ proposal would bring the state’s cannabidiol, or CBD oil, regulations in line with federal standards and also address the “social and racial justice aspect” of marijuana use by decriminalizing possession, manufacturing or distribution of marijuana for amounts of 25 grams or less.
“Too many people, often persons of color, spend time in our criminal justice system just for possessing small amounts of marijuana. That doesn’t make our communities stronger or safer,” Evers said.
Both Swearingen and Gauthier said the inclusion of marijuana reforms in the governor’s budget will encourage needed conversations across the state.
“I’m concerned about this moving forward because I don’t think there’s enough research and from the research I’ve read, it’s concerning,” Gauthier said. “I’m concerned about the level of violence increasing; I’m concerned about mental health-related issues increasing because of increased usage and increased access to use.”
Evers said he looks forward to working on “both sides of the aisle” to pass this proposal in his budget.