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).
By WRN Contributor / John Colbert-WIBA
A legislative panel is moving toward allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp, a crop that used to be big in Wisconsin before the War on Drugs. Louie Molepske Jr. (D-Stevens Point) is behind the effort which was approved by the Assembly Agriculture Committee Thursday.
Hemp is a resilient plant that can be used for fiber, oil, and in food. Molepske adds Wisconsin was once the number one hemp growing state, this bill “sets in motion” a path back to that level of productivity.
The Stevens Point Democrat says there’s no worry about getting “high” by smoking the crop, as Marijuana contains around 15 percent THC, industrial hemp has only a fraction of one percent.
By Wisconsin Ag Connection Staff
A group of rural Wisconsin lawmakers are looking into the possibility of setting up an independent committee to study the uses of industrial hemp. According to supporters, the measure would require the panel to review literature related to hemp, and evaluate the economic opportunities for state growers and distributors. That group would then report to the state legislature with its recommendations within one year.
Specifically, the committee would conduct a review of scientific and business findings of industrial hemp as an alternative fuel and motor oil, as well as other uses like seed and industrial hemp oil in snack foods, body care products, and food supplements.
The committee would be made up of two appointees selected by the governor, and another four chosen by the presidents of the state senate and assembly. The chairs of the senate and assembly ag committees would also serve, along with a representative of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau.
The issue of growing hemp as an agricultural cash crop has been controversial in other states because parts of the plant are considered controlled substances. Just last month, a federal appeals court ruled that a group of North Dakota farmers would not be allowed to grow the crop despite the fact that they were issued a license to do so.
By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. A Republican opponent to allowing medical marijuana in Wisconsin accused Democratic backers Tuesday of using chronically ill patients to push a secret agenda of making pot legal for everyone.
Rep. Leah Vukmir's claim at a public hearing drew boos and other derisive comments from many in the room packed with sick people in wheelchairs or walking with the assistance of canes. Supporters say marijuana helps patients deal with diseases, cancer treatments and other ailments by relieving them of pain and nausea.
Vukmir said there was no medical reasons to use marijuana and that other pain relief measures should be pursued that "do not require individuals to light a joint." She said once marijuana is legalized for medical uses, momentum will grow to make it available to everyone, as has happened elsewhere.
By Steve Elliott, Toke of the Town for Hemp News
The Wisconsin Legislature will hold a public hearing Tuesday to debate SB 368, the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act, which would allow seriously ill patients to use cannabis without fear of arrest if their doctor recommends it.
The hearing will be at 10 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 15, at the State Capitol, Room 412 East, Madison, Wis.
Qualifying patients with doctors' notes could grow their own marijuana or obtain it from "compassion centers" around the state if the bill becomes law.
Wisconsin is working to become the 14th state to allow medical marijuana. Legislation is in the works in at least 14 other states, according to Mike Meno, assistant director of communications at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
The bill is the namesake of Jacki Rickert, a 58-year-old grandmother from Mondovi who has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and advanced reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and who founded medical marijuana advocacy organization Is My Medicine Legal Yet? (IMMLY) in 1992.
Rickert led hundreds of medical marijuana supporters in an October rally at the Wisconsin State Capitol in support of the legislation bearing her name.
The House Public Health Committee and Senate Committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue will host the hearing on the bill, which is sponsored by state Rep. Mark Pocan and state Sen. Jon Erpenbach.
By Gary Storck, Madison NORML
Below is a compilation of recent news articles about the Jacki Rickert MMJ Act. More are on the way.
MADISON: As support builds, Wisconsin media outlets continue to portray the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act in a favorable light. Patients are sharing their stories with reporters, resulting in some very moving personal stories of just how much cannabis can help people in our state who are suffering today
Below is a sampling of highlights from the last week.
On Wednesday Nov, 25, the day before Thanksgiving, The Capital Times published a 4000-word cover story by Cap Times reporter Steven Elbow that presented a very broad view of the issue, with many viewpoints represented.
(State Rep. Mark) Pocan says that with polls showing overwhelming support for medical marijuana in Wisconsin and wide support in neighboring states, Republicans have seen the writing on the wall.
"I'm sure they're hearing from their constituents," he says. "My guess is where they're used to just saying no, because that's kind of what they do when measures come up from Democrats, in this case I think they realize there's a real price back home to pay by just having an obstructionist agenda."
The article also explored the difficult choices faced by patients attempting to manage serious debilitating conditions, like MS patient Christine Harrington, whose husband was jailed for growing her medicine.
Two state lawmakers are pushing for legalization of marijuana for medicinal use in Wisconsin. Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) named their proposal after Jacki Rickert, who led a 210-mile wheelchair journey in the state to advocate for medical marijuana.
By Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. - Supporters of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes say the time is right to change the law in Wisconsin.
Two Democratic state lawmakers announced on Monday that a bill they are co-sponsoring to legalize medical marijuana will be the subject of a public hearing on Dec. 15. Sen. Jon Erpenbach of Waunakee says he thinks there is enough support to get it passed.
He and Assembly co-sponsor Rep. Mark Pocan of Madison were joined by advocacy groups and patients who say using marijuana can help those ill with cancer regain their appetite and deal with pain from their diseases and treatments.
Thirteen states have legalized medical marijuana and Gov. Jim Doyle last month said he would support it if users have a doctor's prescription.
By Brian Bull, Wisconsin Public Radio
MADISON (WPR) New legislation for legalizing medical marijuana is being drafted in the Wisconsin legislature. Sponsors say this latest bill will be based on a medical cannabis law recently approved by Michigan voters.
Last year, about two-thirds of Michigan voters approved the legalization of marijuana for severely ill patients. That inspired State Representative Mark Pocan and State Senator Jon Erpenbach to push – again-- for legalized medical marijuana in Wisconsin. Erpenbach says Michigan’s law gives credibility to their cause. Erpenbach says the proposal will be tailored to Wisconsin, with a doctor’s prescription needed. A non-profit corporation has also been proposed to dispense and distribute marijuana.
The Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act is named for a 58-year-old Mondovi resident with several chronic ailments affecting her bones and joints. Jacki Rickert says she’s been on cannabis therapy since the 1990s, and it’s helped her endure both pain and nausea. At first, Rickert says her daughter carried her from room to room and she was told, “If we don’t get weight on you, you will die”. Rickert, who once weighed 68 pounds is now up to 94 pounds.
The bill also now includes PTSD as a qualifying condition. If passed, Wisconsin would become the 14th state to legalize medical marijuana. Opponents say patients are best helped with tested and approved drugs that are already legal.