Pot, Weed, Bud, Devil’s Grass, Marijuana or Cannabis –whatever you prefer to call it in the more recent years has become controversial topic. More specifically the complete legalization and decriminalization of the commonly used illegal drug.
It’s been year Colorado and Washington legalized Marijuana. Since then many other states have made attempts at legalizing medicinal Marijuana, decriminalizing Marijuana or legalizing the schedule I drug for recreational use.
Since the beginning of Obama’s presidency, public approval ratings of marijuana have increased from 50 percent to 56-58% according to Galluppolls.com. Progressively, Americans have begun changing their perspective on the drug.
Madison is considered by many people in Wisconsin to be the most progressive city when it comes to legalization. After the April 1st election, Dane County appears to be ready to follow in the steps of Colorado and Washington.
Dane County Board Supervisor Leland Pan of District 5 feels that as long as Republicans dominantly control Wisconsin’s state government, Marijuana will remain illegal.
Wisconsin has made small steps towards legalization. In April of 2014, Governor Scott Walker signed a very limited medical cannabis bill. Law A.B. 726 allows individuals with a doctor’s approval to use a non-psychoactive cannabidoil to treat seizure disorders.
The oil is a byproduct of marijuana and has very low levels of THC and is intended for use by children. The law is considered a very small step towards legalization.
While legalization of medial marijuana may be closer for the state of Wisconsin, some people are still not convinced the drug should be legal at all. Many people believe that marijuana is a gateway drug towards harsher more dangerous drugs.
Dr. Michael Miller has been working in the field of drug and alcohol addiction for thirty years. He believes that Nicotine is the most addictive legal drug. In fact, according to Dr. Miller only 9 percent of people who use cannabis become addicted.
There are no FDA approved drugs to help cannabis addicts stop using. Rather treatments like a twelve step referral program or individual and group therapy sessions are used to combat cannabis addiction.
Dr. Miller stresses that teens are the most susceptible to marijuana addiction and can experience developmental problems if they use the drug at an early age. The brain has not fully developed until 25.
“If you want to believe that a drug is not addictive or not harmful and it is not supported by facts that’s your preference,” Dr. Miller said.
Students at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, voiced their opinions about the idea of legalizing Marijuana in Wisconsin.
Many of the students at UW-Whitewater were for the legalization of Marijuana in the state of Wisconsin. They believed that by legalizing the drug our state could benefit in many ways such as boosting the states economy and lowering crime.
UW-W students believe that crime rates would decrease and officers would be able to focus on harsher drugs like Heroin or Cocaine. The chart below reports that from 1965-2012 the annual number of marijuana arrests in the United States has dramatically jumped from two per hour to 86 per hour.
In the state of Wisconsin if a first time offender for possession of any amount of Marijuana can receive a fine up to $1,000 and/or face up to six months of imprisonment. The first offense is only a misdemeanor, but any other offense is consider a felony and a person could face up to three and a half years of incarceration and have to pay a maximum fine of $10,000.
As of May, 2 2014, the number of adults locked up in a Wisconsin state facility designed to hold 17,127 inmates is 22,080 people. In 2012, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections reported that 16% of their inmates were incarcerated on drug charges.
According to ACLU.org if Wisconsin were to cut its marijuana possession arrests in half, taxpayers would save an estimated $3.5 million. That’s just the act of the arrest itself, not including the cost of jailing, court costs, or the cost of incarcerating a person which roughly costs Wisconsin $31,000 a year per person.
Supervisor Pan believes that the money spent on marijuana related arrests and imprisonments is a waste of time.
“For me, this is money that could be going to things like higher education. To things like health care. For me those things are much bigger priorities.”
Besides costing the state money, cost of bail, fines and court costs will average out to $1,675 a person. This can cost a person more than a few bucks. Misdemeanor’s on a record can hinder a person from finding a new job.
Wisconsin’s tight tenant laws (Assembly Bill 183) also can make it difficult for a person convicted of a marijuana related crime to find a home. Supervisor Pan has personally heard of that exact thing happening.
“I knew of a veteran who was down on his luck,” Pan said. “He finally had enough money to afford a home but was denied housing based on a misdemeanor charge for Marijuana possession in 1970.”
However, the issue remains on how laws and regulations for police would go. Currently legalization is just too confusing and risky for lawmakers. Even some UW-W students had reservations about legalization.
Although the numbers coming from Colorado’s marijuana profits do make for a tempting argument. Legalizing marijuana has already brought more than a $20 million profit to the state of Colorado. Colorado began legally selling marijuana on January 1, 2014.
UW-Whitewater students agree, Dane County agrees, but the question remains does the state agree?
Wisconsin could benefit from the legalization of marijuana. Whether through economic boosts, medical purposes, decreases in crime. However, Governor Walker is not yet convinced. For now the state of Wisconsin will just have to sit back and watch as other states reap the benefits of legal marijuana.