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).
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.