Erpenbach Bill Would Legalize MMJ in State

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  Erpenbach Bill Would Legalize MMJ in State

Posted by CN Staff on December 06, 2009 at 14:31:39 PT
By Gina Duwe 
Source: Janesville Gazette  

Janesville, WI -- Sen. Jon Erpenbach said his push to legalize marijuana for medical use is about compassion. "Why does somebody have to break the law to go and get a very good medicine for their system and is less trying on their system than anything else has been?" the Middleton Democrat asked.Erpenbach, whose district covers western Rock County, recently introduced the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act with co-sponsor Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison. "Nobody's opening the door to the slippery slope of (legalizing) drug use. It's more an issue of compassion and pain management," he said.
Rep. Steve Nass, R-La Grange, isn't convinced."I am opposed to this legislation," Nass said."The sponsors of this bill are ignoring the concerns of both medical professionals and law enforcement. The Wisconsin State Medical Society opposes this legislation because it attempts to proceed in advance of legitimate scientific research into the medical benefits of marijuana. In order to justify legalization, the medical benefits must be validated by both scientific and medical experts," Nass said."The use of marijuana for medical purposes should be about medicine, not a political agenda," Nass said.When asked, other area legislators declined to take sides on the issue, saying they will wait to hear the debate and from constituents.Discussion on the bill starts when a joint health committee holds a hearing at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15."My goal is to get it out of my committee to have a vote on the floor this spring," said Erpenbach, who chairs the Senate health committee. How It Would Work  The bill would legalize marijuana only for medical purposes, and users would need notes from doctors.People with debilitating medical conditions or treatments would be eligible. Conditions include cancer, glaucoma, Crohn's disease, AIDS, HIV and posttraumatic stress disorder.The state Department of Health Services would create a process to extend the list, Erpenbach said.Qualifying patients with doctors' notes could grow their own marijuana or obtain it from "compassion centers" around the state, he said.The state Department of Health Services would create rules for a registry of people allowed to use medical marijuana and for licensing and regulation of a non-profit corporation to distribute marijuana.Erpenbach points to San Francisco, where marijuana shops popped up on seemingly every corner, as an example of what it wouldn't be, he said.The bill would regulate how much marijuana a patient could have—up to 12 plants and 3 ounces of leaves or flowers.Users would be restricted on where they could use marijuana, basically limiting it to their homes, and they wouldn't be able to drive after use."These are pretty sick people," Erpenbach said. "(It's) situations where it's not like they're going to a bar and smoking it. You're pretty much going to be in a home." Reaction  Reaction since the bill's introduction has been positive, Erpenbach said. He's spoken with legislators who are leery, but others—who might have been seen as dead-set against it—are open to the idea, he said.Thirteen states allow medical marijuana, or medical cannabis, and Wisconsin is among 17 states where legislation has been in the works.Janesville Police Chief David Moore questioned the impact for officers."I'm concerned that if medical marijuana is allowed, that the laws are carefully developed so officers on the street are able to make conclusive decisions as to the legal or illegal possession of the drug," he said.Moore is also concerned about the message that legalizing medical marijuana could send to children."My concern is I wouldn't want to send a mixed message to our youth that marijuana is not harmful," he said.Janesville officers have not encountered any medical use of marijuana cases, Moore said, but they generally aren't staking out homes of cancer patients.Tim of Janesville is among area residents advocating for the bill. A few months ago, Tim, 32, met with staffers for Rep. Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, and Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit, at the Capitol."To deny (a patient) a better quality of life as they die, that's inhumane. It should be criminal," he said.Tim started drinking at age 15 and became an alcoholic, leading to problems in his life. He used marijuana as a crutch when he quit drinking about four years ago, he said, and his regular use has "yet to cause a negative on my life."He smokes recreationally, but he said taking four or five hits at night helps him fall asleep because prescription medication doesn't help ease the pain from two bulging discs in his back.He's been an outspoken advocate for legalized marijuana in GazetteXtra story comments under the username "thekid3477." Other readers have e-mailed him to indicate their support for medical use—from "hard-core Republicans to cancer patients," he said. Momentum  Earlier this year, the Obama administration directed federal prosecutors to not seek arrests of medical marijuana users as along as they follow state laws.The American Medical Association also changed course, pushing for more research and urging the federal government to remove marijuana from its classification that equates it with heroin.In Wisconsin, Gov. Jim Doyle has said he would sign the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act if it makes it to his desk.Erpenbach urges people to keep an open mind and talk to someone who's dealing with cancer or another debilitating disease."This impacts them only," he said.The bill wouldn't make drug use more prevalent, he said."We're taking what a lot of families have decided to do—risk arrest and so on—to help out their family members," he said."In this situation, I don't see anything wrong with that at all." Other Representatives React  Rep. Chuck Benedict, D-Beloit: "The Obama Administration recently announced a change in policy related to medical marijuana in so much as they will focus on those who traffic drugs and not those who dispense marijuana for medical purposes."This change could impact state laws, not just in Wisconsin, but all over the country. As a retired physician, I do know that marijuana does offer medical benefits for some patients who require pain management and anti-nausea treatments. AB554 will be before the Assembly Public Health Committee, which I chair, on Dec. 15th, and I am looking forward to hearing the debate."Rep. Kim Hixson, D-Whitewater: "This legislation is still in a very early stage of the legislative process. I am not a member of the Assembly Committee on Public Health, where this bill has been referred and has yet to receive a public hearing. Until this legislation reaches the Assembly floor, I will continue to focus on creating and retaining jobs in our area, which remains my No. 1 priority."Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit: "I am going to keep an open mind about this legislation. I look forward to hearing the testimony from doctors, specialists in pain management, and law enforcement."Rep. Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville: "The Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act was only recently introduced and referred to the Committee on Public Health and has several legislative hurdles to clear before it could be considered by the Assembly. A public hearing has been scheduled, and at that time people will have their first opportunity to speak out for or against the bill. I welcome input from my constituents on the Medical Marijuana Act, and will consider their opinions as I review this legislation."Source: Janesville Gazette (WI)Author: Gina DuwePublished: December 6, 2009Copyright: 2009 Bliss Communications, Inc.Website: Medical Marijuana Archives 

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Comment #12 posted by FoM on December 08, 2009 at 14:24:03 PT

The link works for me.
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Comment #11 posted by Hope on December 08, 2009 at 14:08:39 PT

The link works fine from here.
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Comment #10 posted by dankhank on December 08, 2009 at 13:59:43 PT

something wrong with my link?
done it already?
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Comment #9 posted by dankhank on December 06, 2009 at 20:12:58 PT

good story ...'s coming ...
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Comment #8 posted by MikeC on December 06, 2009 at 19:39:15 PT

Great to see you on here every now and then. Thank you for all of your hard work! You are a true hero to the movement.I am still working on Reps. Harsdorf and Rhoades and although they haven't yet said they'd vote yes, they are willing to listen. 
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Comment #7 posted by ezrydn on December 06, 2009 at 19:15:19 PT:

A "Pssst" to Chief Moore
Here's the old, dried out "what about the children" statement. Well, Chief Moore, IF your department has a SWAT TEAM and/or your department has any connection to a drug task force, YOU DON'T CARE A BIT ABOUT THE CHILDREN! How do you think children get killed and maimed during your "no knock" raids? By the mailman?????
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on December 06, 2009 at 18:26:26 PT

I wish you all the good luck in the world. It's time now. It's Wisconsin's time.
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Comment #5 posted by Gary Storck on December 06, 2009 at 17:53:36 PT

Very nice article!
I can't wait until the hearing on 12/15! I expect a lot of great testimony in support!
Jacki Rickert MMJ Act official site
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on December 06, 2009 at 17:09:21 PT

I never liked Clinton. I didn't vote for him. He can talk a good line but he isn't straight forward honest in my opinion. That's why I appreciate President Obama's hands off. That's what he said he'd do and that is what he is doing. He said change happens from the bottom up not the top down. That's what the reform community has been trying to do for years and now it is working. It's a really comforting feeling.
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on December 06, 2009 at 16:24:00 PT

I think Bill Clinton should travel to Wisconsin and speak for the passage of the Jacki Rickert Bill.He promised her to her face that he would see that she would be enrolled in the Compassionate Use Program if he were elected President when he was running the first time.He lied.
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on December 06, 2009 at 15:05:43 PT

Let's get it done now! I'm with you.
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Comment #1 posted by MikeC on December 06, 2009 at 15:03:02 PT

Very nice...
I am excited that this could happen for us here in Wisconsin in the not too distant future.
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