Gov. Evers wants to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, legalize medical use

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday his budget will include proposals to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

Evers said it’s time Wisconsin join more than 30 other states and the District of Columbia in legalizing medical marijuana.

“The people of Wisconsin overwhelmingly believe that people shouldn’t be treated like criminals for accessing medicine that can change or maybe even save their lives,” said Evers.

Both the Department of Health Services and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection would regulate the medical marijuana program. A doctor would need to recommend a patient with a debilitating medical condition.

Those conditions include cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain, seizures and others determined by DHS.

Veteran Steve Acheson, who suffers from pain and PTSD from his deployment in Iraq, has been waiting for medical marijuana to be legalized for a long time.

NOW: @GovEvers announces plan to legalize medical marijuana & CBD. He wants to decriminalize possession for amounts 25 grams or less. He hopes this will help end racial disparities in our criminal justice system. #News3Now

— Amanda Quintana (@AmandaQTV) February 18, 2019

“I was on about seven or eight different pills every day from the V.A., from opiates to muscle relaxers, benzos, you name it. And I was a zombie,” said Acheson.

He was able to replace every medication with marijuana.

“It’s put me in this really gray area where every day I step out of my door, I have to worry about being convicted of a crime,” said Acheson.

He believes legalizing the drug could help other veterans and people addicted to opioids.

Right now, Wisconsinites need a prescription to purchase CBD oil. It’s time for Wisconsin to align with federal standards and allow folks to purchase CBD oil without a prescription.

— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) February 18, 2019

Evers’ proposal would allow anyone to access CBD products like the ones sold at The Hemp House in Deerfield.

“People are coming to our shop because it just comes down to they’re tired of going to the doctor and their only option is dangerous and addictive pharmaceuticals. And we’re just looking for a safer option,” said The Hemp House owner Brian Seamonson.

Seamonson has been traveling across Wisconsin to speak to county boards about the benefits of legalizing medical marijuana.

In the fall 2018 election, 16 Wisconsin counties held advisory referendums on marijuana asking voters if they supported some sort of legalization. All counties expressed support with a solid majority.

Evers’ proposal takes legalization a step further. He wants to see possession, manufacturing or distribution of marijuana in amounts of 25 grams or less decriminalized.

The governor’s proposal would also establish an expungement procedure for individuals convicted of possessing, manufacturing or distributing less than 25 grams of marijuana who have completed their sentence or probation.

He said this is a critical step toward addressing racial disparities in our criminal justice system.

“The bottom line is that we’re spending too much money prosecuting and incarcerating people, and often people of color, for non-violent crimes related to possessing a small amount of marijuana,” said Evers.

Representative David Crowley (D – Milwaukee) said Wisconsin is the worst state in America to be a black person.

“African-Americans make up about 6 percent of the population in our state. However, we make up almost 40 percent of our prison population. That is unjust,” said Crowley.

He said in Milwaukee County, 40 percent of the black men arrested were for low-level drug offenses and in Dane County, black men have been incarcerated for drug offenses nearly 100 times more than white men.

The plan also includes creating a procedure to expunge the criminal records of people who have served time for low-level drug offenses.

Republican Speaker Robin Vos said this proposal goes too far.

“It makes it easier to get recreational marijuana and provides a pathway to full legalization, which I do not support. I’m open to medical marijuana when it’s prescribed by a doctor but it has to be done in a targeted way without allowing recreational use,” said Vos in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald is also expected to oppose the idea. In the past, he has said he doesn’t support legalizing medical marijuana and he doesn’t see support from his fellow Republicans either.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce has also released a statement against the plan.

“Not only does Evers’ plan put Wisconsin at odds with federal law, the state’s business leaders are concerned about the impacts marijuana decriminalization will have on workplace safety,” the business association said in a release.

It also said employees who test positive for marijuana use had 55 percent more industrial accidents, 85 percent more injuries and 75 percent greater absenteeism compared to those who tested negative, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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