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).
The photo below show the company's employees, mostly area farmers in 1917. The company owner is pictured in the back row at the far right.
By Michael Bachara, Hemp News Correspondent
Established in 1916, the Fairwater Hemp Company was one of the upper midwest's largest hemp producers. It was located adjacent to the booming railroad line and also to the west of the north fork of the Grand River, making it convenient for the production of electricity to power their manufacturing plant. The community of Fairwater, which was founded around the water power of the river in 1848, was officially incorporated in 1921.
In 1917, Fairwater Hemp began using industrial hemp as electrical energy when the river was low by burning the byproducts of their hemp rope manufacture, hemp hurds, to drive a steam engine to produce electricity. This instance is the first documented use of hemp as an energy source.
Although Fairwater hemp operations ceased in 1931, the number of things that can be made from hemp continues to grow today. The possibilities for the plant are endless job producers for those who wish to be innovative. It is this writers opinion, we must re-introduce this agricultural crop to our society, now more than ever.
By Paul Stanford, Hemp News Director
Ben Masel was, beginning in his teens, a leader and activist for freedom and cannabis. Ben was brilliant, incisive and a Grand Master chess champion. He was a seemingly fearless advocate who spent his life supporting others and working for freedom and justice. I am proud and honored to count Ben Masel as an associate, mentor and friend.
Ben was the primary force behind the Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Fest in Madison, Wisconsin, which happens in late September every year since 1970. Until the Seattle Hempfest emerged in the late 90s, it was the largest pro-marijuana rally in the world. I was honored to speak at the Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Fest in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was truly empowering and inspirational to march the half mile from the University of Wisconsin campus down State Street, with 15,000+ others, to the Wisconsin State Capitol in the early Autumn sunshine, the colorful Wisconsin foliage and the crisp clean air. Ben also was a driving force behind Wisconsin's annual Weedstock protestival. The Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Fest continues today and is still one of the largest pro-cannabis events in the world.
An activism pioneer who inspired many, Ben Masel loses battle with lung cancer
By Michael Bachara, Hemp News Correspondent
Madison, Wisconsin - A lifelong activist, Ben Masel, has died after his battle with lung cancer. As the Hemp and Cannabis Community and many others mourn this great loss, we must also remember what Masel spent most of his life fighting for and continue on the path he helped to blaze.
Over the course of his life, Masel traveled countless miles and spent innumerable hours voicing his ideas and fighting for the rights of his fellows. Even in the face of opposition, he continued to speak out in favor of hemp and cannabis legalization, freedom of speech and the ability of people who make a stand to make a difference.
Masel's life-long passion project, Madison, Wisconsin's Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, began as a marijuana smoke-in in 1971. The Harvest Festival, now celebrating its 41st year, has a long history of promoting cannabis hemp legalization and free speech while providing an annual celebration for like minded people to join together.
By Gary Storck, Madison NORML
MADISON: Wisconsin’s medical cannabis movement has matured into a fully state wide effort. There were scores of rallies Saturday at Wisconsin Wal-Mart’s supporting AB554 and protesting the chain’s firing of a Michigan medical marijuana patient with cancer. People spoke up, stepped up, organized their first medical cannabis events ever. Saturday, March 27, 2010 truly represents the high-water mark of this movement so far, and shows that Wisconsin advocates have statewide reach and influence.
Eau Claire, La Crosse, Berlin, Green Bay, Onalaska, Stevens Point/Plover, Oshkosh, Appleton, Fond du Lac, Madison, three Milwaukee Wal-Marts, Waukesha, Hartford, Kenosha, Racine and West Bend were among locations reporting rallies.
The events received media coverage both before and after in print, online and television. The Madison rally at the East Side Wal-Mart on Nakoosa Trail that I was at was covered by both WKOW (Ch. 27) as well as WMTV (Ch. 15). Footage from Madison aired on Fox 6 in Milwaukee. WEAU in Eau Claire covered the rally there. And there was other tv coverage across the state including Fox 11 Green Bay.
By Jessica VanEgeren, The Capital Times
A recent Cap Times cover story on the state's extensive history with hemp - a hardy crop that no longer can be legally grown in the United States - sparked a trip down memory lane for a number of readers across the state.
"It was like walking through a canopied jungle," says Curt Hellmer of Stoughton. "Or rows of mature corn without the thick leaves near the ground."
That's how Hellmer, now 55, recalls his childhood experiences some 50 years ago when he used to play in the 8- to 10-foot-tall hemp stalks in his grandfather's hemp fields. The family made money on the crop by selling it to a rope manufacturer in Platteville, Hellmer says.
Back when Hellmer was running through hemp fields as a kid, Wisconsin was the country's second-leading producer of hemp. That all changed when the plant, which contains minimal levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), became classified as a controlled substance in 1970.
When growing hemp was still legal in the United States, farmers had to pay $1 for a "special tax stamp" that allowed them to grow or produce "marihuana."
A copy of a permit that was issued to Lafayette farmer, Horatio Bale, in 1943 was emailed to the paper after last week's cover story.
Bale's son and daughter-in-law, Kurt and Joanna Bale, still live on the family farm. It's not uncommon, they say, to find hemp still growing in patches.
By Gary Storck, Madison NORML Examiner
State medical cannabis activists have established a daily presence at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison to push for passage of the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act as the 2009-2010 legislative session winds down. There is a real sense of urgency and interest in the bill that extends from rural townships and villages across the state to the largest cities to people watching from around the country. A vast coalition of people across the state are getting involved, enlisting others and doing whatever they can to get the JRMMA passed: "This Bill, This Time!"
"Operation Floodgates" is an organized campaign aimed to highlight the urgency of the issue, to make people aware a bill is being considered and to allow constituents to act now and help legislators find the compassion and logic to allow the use of medical marijuana.
The daily presence on Wisconsin's Capitol Hill will soon be enhanced with the planned opening of a Wisconsin NORML office close to the Capitol. This will also create a place for supporters to help out, pick up literature, learn strategies and skills, etc.
By Gil Halsted, Wisconsin Public Radio
MADISON (WPR) It could soon be legal to grow hemp for industrial purposes in Wisconsin, depending on what comes of two hemp bills pending in the state legislature.
One bill would allocate money for a study on what the marketing future of hemp might be if farmers were allowed to grow it. The other would set up a licensing procedure for farmers who want to grow the plant and sell it for its seed oil or as a fiber for making paper and other products.
Because hemp contains a small amount of THC -- the active intoxicating ingredient in marijuana -- the federal Drug Enforcement Agency has refused to allow it to be grown as a commercial crop.
Hemp bill sponsor Rep. Louis Molepske of Stevens Point says if his bill passes, farmers would be ready to start sowing hemp seeds when and if the federal government lifts the ban. He says nine states have already passed similar bills. Molepske says hemp is not marijuana, and Wisconsin could return to being a leading producer of hemp, as it was through the 1960’s.
State law enforcement officials have cautioned against legalizing hemp. At a hearing last week, an analyst from the state crime lab testified against the bill, saying it would create a problem for him in his work because he would likely be called upon to test hemp plants to make sure they fall below the legal limit for percentage THC.
At a time when Wisconsin farm families are constantly looking for new sources of revenue, hemp would be a good one.
By Capital Times Editorial
The states of North Dakota, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, West Virginia, Vermont and Oregon already have legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp, recognizing that these crops can be used to produce fibers that are useful in the making of rope and other products.
At a time when Wisconsin farm families are constantly looking for new sources of revenue, this is a good one. And it has a history in the state; until 1957, notes Bill Tracy, who chairs the Agronomy Department at the University of Wisconsin, industrial hemp was a significant crop for Wisconsin farmers.
With that combination of current need and relatively recent history in mind, legislators should not hesitate to back a bill, introduced by state Rep. Louis Molepske Jr., D-Stevens Point, which would address the state prohibition on the production of hemp.
The controversy regarding this bill, to the extent that there is any, will have to do with the fact that hemp is cultivated from the same plant that is used to grow marijuana.
By Cara Spoto, Central Wisconsin
A bill introduced by a Stevens Point lawmaker would allow Wisconsin farmers to grow industrial hemp with a state license.
Currently, farmers in the state are prohibited under state and federal law from producing hemp, which is cultivated from Cannabis sativa, the same plant used to grow marijuana.
The strains of the plant used in hemp production differ from those grown for marijuana because they contain less than .03 percent THC, which produces mind-altering effects. Marijuana can contain anywhere from 6 percent to 7 percent THC.
Industrial hemp is produced from the stalk of the plant, and is used to produce a variety of fibers, including rope.
Introduced by State Rep. Louis Molepske Jr., a Democrat, the measure would require the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to permit farmers to grow and process Cannabis sativa, as long as it contains no more than .03 percent THC. Farmers would be required to provide a legal description of the land where the hemp would be grown or processed and to report all sales. Any person convicted of violating controlled substance laws would not be eligible.
by Gary Storck
MADISON: For nearly 20 years, dating back to the middle years of Tommy Thompson's 14 years as governor, medical cannabis supporters began holding vigil outside the Governor's State of the State Address (SOTS) to the Legislature and other state officials. On January 26, 2010, they were outside the Assembly Chambers once again, with their leader Jacki Rickert.
Supporters spoke with lawmakers heading in to watch Gov. Doyle with several stopping to warmly greet Jacki, including bill sponsors Rep. Mark Pocan, (D-Madison), and Sen. Jon Erpenbach, (D-Waunakee) as well as Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber (D-Appleton) and Rep. Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire).
Medical cannabis supporters called out to Gov. Doyle as he ascended the stairs leading to the Assembly Chamber. He looked over at supporters with signs and a "Medical Marijuana is Healthcare" banner held by patients.
Most JRMMA supporters held vigil while others watched the SOTS from the gallery. JRMMA Media was also on hand, taking photos, filming video and doing interviews. Once the Address was over, supporters fanned out, speaking with individual lawmakers. We spoke to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), after the speech, and he remains hopeful that the JRMMA can move this session. One supporter even managed to talk to medical cannabis arch-opponent Rep. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa).