By Steve Elliott
More and more cities across Wisconsin are relaxing penalties against people caught with small amounts of marijuana, as the decriminalization movement sweeps across the state.
Nine of the state's 10 largest cities have already decriminalized simple cannabis possession, a Gannett Central Wisconsin Media review reveals, reports the Associated Press. Madison and Milwaukee were among the first cities in Wisconsin to relax their pot laws.
Stevens Point is the latest municipality in the state to adopt and then modify a new marijuana ordinance. Last month, the city reduced the fine for first-time pot possession to $100.
Under Wisconsin law, people caught with small amounts of weed can be charged with a misdemeanor crime, punishable by jail time and a permanent criminal record. With some cities in the state now enforcing lesser penalties, those "suspects" can now face anything from up to six months in jail, to no jail time or fine at all.
Some law enforcement types say they don't support decrim because they claim marijuana can lead to harder drugs, i.e., the long discredited "gateway theory." Decrim advocates say those caught with small amounts of cannabis shouldn't be treated any differently than other minor offenders.
By Steve Elliott
A proposal to grow marijuana for medical and/or recreational purposes on Thursday passed an advisory referendum vote by the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin.
The tribe said the results aren't binding, but advisory in nature, meaning the vote doesn't change the Tribal Controlled Substance Ordinance, reports Clare Kaley at WBAY. If the proposal is taken up at the tribal legislature level, the panel would need to amend the ordinance.
The tribe said it would take input from tribal members before creating a new ordinance for the use of marijuana.
After Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker rejected a proposal for the tribe to build a casino in Kenosha, some members say marijuana is a way for the tribe to make some extra money.
"We want to do more for our people, but every situation we come up with gets denied or whatever," said Menominee tribe member Daylene Gladue. "If it came down to this now, then it had to be."
If the tribe approves growing marijuana it may only be available to tribal members, and will only allowed on tribal land. Tribal Chairman Gary Besaw noted it is an "open question" whether the tribe would be allowed to sell marijuana to non-Indians on the reservation.
The tribe said certain factors will be considered if it moves forward with the proposal. "Things like making sure minors do not have access to it, gangs are not involved in it, and that it does not go outside of the reservation to places where it's illegal," Besaw said.
By Steve Elliott
A Madison, Wisconsin couple investigated for marijuana possession and drug paraphernalia in Baraboo won't be charged for possessing the controlled substance after citing a medical exemption.
The Baraboo Police Department and City Attorney Mark Reitz decided not to prosecute the couple after they provided authorities with valid Wisconsin medical marijuana authorizations from a physician, reports Elizabeth Onheiber at the Baraboo News Republic.
While looking into a complaint of a dog left in the vehicle of Greg and Karen Kinsley on September 13 at Sauk County Fairgrounds, Baraboo Police Sgt. Mark Lee and Det. Jeremy Drexler saw a marijuana pipe through the car window. They seized it, along with a small amount of cannabis, after resolving the pet issue.
The couple provided documentation from Wisconsin doctors recommending medical marijuana, and Karen Kinsley presented a valid Oregon medical marijuana registry card. Greg and Karen said their authorizations for medicinal cannabis are intended to treat Crohn's disease and the pain of scoliosis, respectively.
A little-known 1971 law allows Wisconsin citizens to possess marijuana with a valid doctor's note, and serves as an exemption to the Wisconsin Controlled Substances Act.
PuraMed BioScience, Inc., a company which researches, develops, and markets over-the-counter (OTC) medicinal and healthcare products on Friday announced it is nearing the completion of development of its new non-prescription, hemp-based, homeopathic medication for treatment of epilepsy symptoms including seizures and seizure-related headaches.
Both epilepsy and migraines appear to be triggered by the same cortical spreading depression (CSD) in the brain; the difference is the rate of reaction. This may be why many people who suffer from migraines are prescribed epilepsy medications.
The third most common neurological disorder in the US, epilepsy affects about 2.7 million people, with children and older adults being most susceptible. The condition also causes up to 50,000 sudden deaths each year.
Recent research has shown cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in both hemp and marijuana varieties of cannabis, to be an effective therapy in the treatment of epilepsy symptoms.
"By incorporating standardized hemp oil into our current patented, over-the-counter migraine relief formula, MigraPure, we believe we can offer relief to people who not only suffer with migraines, but also offer relief to people who have seizure-related headaches and other epilepsy-type symptoms," said Russ Mitchell, CEO at PuraMed BioScience.
By Steve Elliott
Forty-eight Wisconsin medical marijuana patients this year got their Oregon medicinal cannabis authorizations at the annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Fest. "But wait," you may be thinking. "They live in Wisconsin, not Oregon." That's entirely true -- but according to those in the know, having an out-of-state medical marijuana authorization gives these patients some legal cover should the police come calling.
The authorizations were issued by THCF Medical Clinics at the Harvest Fest as part of something called The Ben Masel Project. Masel was a famous Yippie activist based in Madison who started the Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Fest; he died suddenly from cancer three and a half years ago.
"The Oregon permit has saved several people in Wisconsin from arrest," THCF founder Paul Stanford told Hemp News. The fact that Oregon issues permits to out-of-state patients has been helpful to those in Wisconsin and other non-MMJ states, according to Stanford.
"This weekend, we helped 48 patients in Wisconsin get Oregon medical marijuana permits, bringing in almost $10,000 in state fees for the Oregon Health Authority," Stanford told us. "Really, the Wisconsin Legislature should act to help its sick and dying patients, and keep those funds in Wisconsin."
Stanford said speaking at the Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Fest, the 44th annual event, "is an old tradition" for him. "I first spoke here in Madison 25 years ago, in 1989, and I came back and spoke again in 1990 and many years since," he told us.
By Steve Elliott
Marijuana should be legalized, taxed, and regulated, and the tax revenues should fund treatment programs for harder drugs, the police chief in Madison, Wisconsin, said on Wednesday.
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval endorsed marijuana legalization during an interview with the State Journal about data showing African Americans in Madison were arrested or cited for marijuana at about 12 times the rate for whites in the city.
Efforts to enforce the marijuana laws are an "abject failure," Chief Koval said, adding the same is true of the broader War On Drugs. "We've done such an abysmal job using marijuana as a centerpiece of drug enforcement, that it's time to reorder and triage the necessities of what's more important now," he said.
Koval said it's time for Wisconsin to consider doing as Colorado and Washington did in legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis.
The police chief said he would like to see Wisconsin "acknowledge the failure" of marijuana prohibition and focus instead on the "infinite amount of challenges" posed by harder drugs such as heroin. Taxes from marijuana sales, Koval said, would create revenue for the state which could be used to fund drug treatment programs and expand the capacity of drug courts which divert users from the criminal justice system.
Well-known Wisconsin medical marijuana activist Gary Storck and two companions were briefly detained by law enforcement at the Fighting Bob Fest in Baraboo on Saturday, but were ultimately released after one of the group showed the officers an Oregon medical marijuana card.
"Around 1:20 p.m., we decided to leave, with Karen [Kinsley] stopping at the vending barn to grab some campaign materials while Greg [Kinsley] and I headed to the car," Storck posted on Facebook Saturday. "Upon returning to the car, we were contacted by a Baraboo officer.
"Sadie's barking had made them concerned she was in an overheated vehicle," Storck posted. "But Sadie was not barking because she was hot. A delivery device and a tiny crumb of alleged medicine was spotted, the officer told us.
"Now I have had pets my entire life, and I treasure them more than most people, so I keep aware of the temperatures and conditions I subject my pets to, as many other owners will," Greg Kinsley explained. "Knowing we would only be at the event for about an hour, we walked around for about 20 minutes in a housed barn/shed where we talked to a few folks and wandered by the tables and then to the outside again."
By Steve Elliott
Two months after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed into a law a measure allowing the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a marijuana derivative used to quell seizures without getting patients high, nobody has yet been able to access the medicine.
The bad situation is due at least in part because of obstacles foolishly written into the legislation at the last minute, reports Dana Ferguson at the Journal Sentinel.
"It is frustrating," said Amylynne Santiago Volker of the roadblocks between her nine-year-old son, Nicholas, and the experimental treatment. "It's there in paper, but we can't access it."
Unfortunately, Wisconsin's "CBD-only" law appears as useless as most of the rest passed recently by state legislatures who want to be seen as "doing something" in the face of overwhelming popular support for medicinal cannabis, without having the courage to pass an actual medical marijuana law which could help actual patients.
Gov. Walker on Friday told reporters he "wasn't sure" if his administration could do anything to free up access to CBD, but if more could be done through state legislation, Walker claimed he was "committed to working with lawmakers" to do so.
By Steve Elliott
The Wisconsin Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on a bill which would legalize a marijuana byproduct, cannabidiol oil, that doesn't make users high, but may relive seizure disorders in children.
The CBD oil bill falls well short of legislation to legalize medical marijuana, reports Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, legalizing only one cannabinoid from the plant. The Wisconsin Assembly last week approved the CBD bill on a voice vote, sending it to the Senate.
The bill was moved out of the Senate Health Committee on Thursday, where Chairwoman Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) tried to block it from being voted upon because she opposes the legislation. The proposal was instead placed in a committee where it could be scheduled for a floor vote in the Senate's last session on Tuesday, April 1.
The bill would go to the desk of Republican Gov. Scott Walker if passed by the Senate.
Rep. Robb Kahl (D-Monona) sponsored the CBD oil bill after a constituent, Amylynne Volker, told him about her son, Nic, who has about 100 epileptic seizures per day. "God bless them!" Volker said, when she learned the measure is poised to move forward.
Volker said the good news was a great way to celebrate her birthday on Friday. "It's pretty incredible and awesome," she said. "It's almost the best birthday present I could get." She said she already had a doctor in mind if the bill passes.
By Steve Elliott
A Democratic representative has introduced a bill into the Wisconsin Assembly to legalize marijuana, and the bill has attracted six Democratic co-sponsors, but Republican Governor Scott Walker says not so fast.
LRB 3671 would legalize marijuana for recreational and medical purposes in Wisconsin. Its sponsor, Rep. Melissa Sargent, said the bill is a "good start" to bringing better cannabis policies to the state.
"After researching this issue extensively, I believe that this bill will benefit Wisconsin and its citizens in many ways, including: addressing racial disparities in arrests, providing medical benefits, time and cost savings to law enforcement, and additional revenue for the state," Rep. Sargent posted on her website.
But Gov. Walker remains unconvinced. "I don't think you're going to see anything serious anytime soon here, but if other states did, maybe in the next Legislative session there'd be more talk about it," he said.
Walker said he spoke with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper at last week's National Governor's Association Meeting, where Hickenlooper said his state would see $134 million in sales tax revenue from marijuana this year -- a much higher figure than expected, reports WITI.
"He talked about the upsides of the revenue," Walker said. "He also talked about how they weren't rushing to spend that on other things because, he said, it's early and they're still concerned about the side effects."
By Steve Elliott
Two Wisconsin Democrats are trying again to legalize marijuana for medical use. Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) and Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) held a Thursday news conference to announce a new medical marijuana bill, saying cannabis can provide pain relief that other medication doesn't.
Erpenbach and Taylor are cosponsoring the Jacki Rickert Medical Cannabis Act, which would legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes. The bill is named after medical marijuana patient Rickert, who is in a wheelchair. "What is (getting) high?" Rickert asked. "Living or gaining weight?"
Sen. Erpenbach called Gary Storck, a medical marijuana patient and advocate for its legalization, "the most persistent constituent in Wisconsin," reports Jessica Vanegeren at The Capital Times. Storck, 58, has been lobbying Erpenbach and others to legalize medical marijuana, which he has been using for 41 years to treat his glaucoma.
"Medical cannabis is all but mainstream now," Storck said at the Capitol press conference.
Erpenbach said opponents claim legalizing medical marijuana will lead patients and others to use the herb for recreational purposes. "I've always found (that line of thinking) disrespectful," Erpenbach said. "I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to actually read the bill."
By Steve Elliott
Democrats in the Wisconsin Legislature are going to try to pass a medical marijuana law again this year; previous attempts have failed.
Thousands of Wisconsin residents are using medical marijuana illegally, according to Gary Storck, a Madison-based medicinal cannabis activist. And a majority of state residents support making it legal for medical purposes -- but the Legislature is unlikely to pass a medical marijuana law, according to observers.
"So many people have been forced into making that choice," said Storck, who has for decades used cannabis to treat this glaucoma, reports Allison Geyer at the La Cross Tribune. "People are going to do it anyway, if they're willing to break the law."
Sen. John Erpenbach of Middleton and Rep. Chris Taylor of Madison will introduce a bill to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes when the Legislature reconvenes for its fall session. Erpenbach has already sponsored such a bill twice before; Taylor is taking the place of Rep. Mark Pocan, who was elected to Congress last year.
"It will be a tough time," Erpenbach said. "It was tough last time when Democrats were in the majority."
By Steve Elliott
A medical marijuana provider and AIDS patient who supplied military veterans with medical marijuana was sentenced in federal court on Tuesday to five years of probation. Rick Rosio, 57, said the sentence makes him feel humbled and grateful.
Rosio had faced 30 to 37 months in federal prison, charged with growing more than 50 marijuana plants, reports Matt Sledge at The Huffington Post. But after his lawyer pointed out in a Spokane, Washington courtroom that marijuana is now legal in Washington state, Rosio got probation instead.
Incredibly, the prosecutor on the case told U.S. District Judge William Fremming Nielsen that he believed the defendant was altruistic and a man of his convictions, according to Rosio.
"They could have buried me," Rosio said. "I guess the message of this is there are times where the government is compassionate."
Rosio was a medical marijuana business owner and advocate in Montana before he moved to Washington. In Montana, he ended up in court during a dispute with a former business partner and was accused of writing bad checks.
Defense attorney Roger Preven admitted his client is "no stranger to the criminal justice system," he wrote in a sentencing memorandum to the court earlier this month, "but he is also no stranger to helping others even at great risk to himself when he believes in a cause."
Report by Bill Hudson, CBS
PRESCOTT, Wis. (WCCO) – Chances are pretty good that if somebody asks you about hemp, your first thoughts might land on the weed that gets rolled into joints. And that's the unfortunate reality plaguing proponents who seek to strip federal regulations on industrial grade hemp.
"You don't want to tamp too much or we're going to lose our insulation properties," said Ken Anderson as he oversaw the installation of a cement-like hemp mixture into a wall cavity. Anderson's company, Original Green Distribution, instructed builders Tuesday on the correct use of its product, HempStone. It is a breathable material made of hemp fibers and lime that Anderson sees as a safer and more efficient alternative to conventional building materials.
"Not only does it have great R-value, it also has thermal mass, which will then capture heat and bring it in when it's cooler in the house and also transfer heat through the house," Anderson said.
By Gary Storck, Madison NORML/Special to Hemp News
MADISON - Wisconsin medical cannabis patients and advocates will have something extra to celebrate this holiday season with news that State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) has scheduled a press conference to announce a new attempt to pass a state medical cannabis law. The press conference is set for the State Capitol's Assembly Parlor (2nd Floor West) on Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 1:00 pm.
Rep. Pocan's office has confirmed that he and State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee) will again be the lead sponsors of the legislation, LRB-2466/1, again dubbed the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act (JRMMA). They will also be sending a letter to their colleagues asking if they would like to cosponsor the legislation.
In the 2009-2010 session, the JRMMA received an 8-plus hour combined Senate/Assembly Health Committee public hearing that drew hundreds of patients. State organizations including the Wisconsin Nurses Association (WNA), Hospice Organization and Palliative Experts (HOPE) and the WI ACLU testified in support along with representatives of national groups including Patients Out of Time (POT), the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). Opposition testimony was limited to a handful of groups who support the status quo of arresting and jailing medical users including the Wisconsin Medical Society (SMS), and the Wisconsin Narcotics Officers Association (WNOA).