President’s words fuel pot legalization debate

Dane County residents to vote on marijuana advisory referendum April 1

Published On: Jan 20 2014 06:52:20 PM CST
MADISON, Wis. -

They are nine words that have helped to further fuel the debate over the legalization of marijuana in the country.

In an interview with The New Yorker magazine, President Barack Obama, when asked about marijuana said, “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

Obama did not argue for the legalization of marijuana and told the magazine he has cautioned his two daughters against using pot. Still the president’s words are being welcomed by proponents of the legalization of pot.

“I was really glad to hear that he finally was willing to admit the truth on this. We’re so used to the government saying myths and lies about marijuana -- it is really refreshing to hear somebody admit what we all have come to understand,” said Gary Storck, co-founder of Madison NORML, an organization working for the legalization of marijuana.

Storck said medical marijuana use is necessary for patients dealing with a variety of illnesses. He also said Wisconsin’s economy could benefit from the legalization of pot.

On April 1, voters in Dane County will cast ballots on an advisory referendum on the legalization of marijuana.

“That referendum is becoming more and more important by the day, and I think the results of that are going to be very interesting and very surprising when we find out how popular marijuana and cannabis legalization has become in Wisconsin,” Storck said.

While Obama’s words are being embraced by marijuana legalization advocates, addiction experts are offering caution.

“It costs close to $600 billion annually. But down to a smaller level here in Madison it costs people jobs, it effects their insurance rates, there are obviously health concerns with both substances,” said Kevin Florek, CEO of Tellurian, an addiction assistance program that treats approximately 8,000 people every year.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the annual cost to society to deal with alcohol abuse is $185 billion, while the cost to deal with drug abuse is $181 billion.

Mark Clark knows what it costs a person.

“I can speak from personal experience. I was addicted to drugs and alcohol for over 40 years,” Clark said. “It completely destroyed my life. It took my family away from me. It took my loved ones away from me, I couldn’t hold a job.”

Clark received treatment for his addiction at Tellurian, and is now the founder and director of Recovery Solutions of Wisconsin.

“I am totally against legalization of marijuana. I think that all it would do is create even more problems that we already have as a nation,” Clark said.