Wisconsin remains a prohibition state on marijuana

Marijuana is legal for recreational use to the east and north of Wisconsin in Michigan, and in six months will be legal to the south in Illinois. It’s also permitted for medicinal use to the west and southwest in Minnesota and Iowa.

Wisconsin is surrounded by more permissive states that grant their citizens more freedom to use cannabis, so long as they aren’t hurting others.

In all, 11 states and the District of Columbia let citizens smoke pot for pleasure, and more than 20 additional states allow doctors to prescribe the drug to relieve pain, nausea, muscle spasms and other symptoms of disease.

Wisconsin is falling behind the nation as a prohibition state, and that needs to change. While the positive versus negative impacts of recreational use are still playing out and being assessed across much of the nation, the case for medicinal marijuana is clear and convincing.

The Legislature should approve marijuana as an option for suffering patients this fall.

Gov. Tony Evers and other Democrats support allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis for medical purposes. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, sounds supportive, too, and said he wants to take up legislation this fall.

Bipartisan consensus and public opinion in Wisconsin favor an end to strict, punitive and expensive marijuana laws. Republicans who run the state Senate should get on board with a smarter and more reasonable approach, rather than stalling progress.

Patients who use medical marijuana for chronic pain use substantially less opioid medication, according to a University of Michigan study. Opioid overdoses have killed 8,500 people across Wisconsin and ruined countless more lives over the past two decades. So Wisconsin doctors should be allowed to prescribe cannabis if they deem it a better medical option.

Marijuana is far less addictive, hasn’t led to documented overdoses, and shows promise as a safer and effective option.

It’s possible allowing medicinal pot could eventually lead to legalization for fun, as many Republican lawmakers fear. But that’s a different debate, with other states serving as testing grounds. Moreover, any negative repercussions from medicinal marijuana would be more than offset by safer relief for suffering patients. That’s been the experience in other states.

CBD oil, which is derived from hemp, is legal and popular across Wisconsin. So is industrial hemp, which is providing farmers with a profitable crop to grow.

Dane County and some of its municipalities have decriminalized marijuana without dire consequences. In fact, doing so has saved the criminal justice system time and money by allowing law enforcement to focus more on serious and violent crimes.

The State Journal editorial board has supported the decriminalization of small amounts of pot. Lawmakers can assess the pros and cons of broader legalization as more states permit it for recreational use, including neighboring states.

What the Legislature has no excuse for delaying — and should do this fall, as Speaker Vos has suggested — is allow citizens and their doctors the freedom to use marijuana as medicine. Doing so will be a compassionate and responsible step benefiting patients and their families.

— Wisconsin State Journal, Madison

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