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Is Wisconsin missing the boat when it comes to legalizing marijuana for medical use?

MILWAUKEE -- Medical marijuana is legal in most states -- but not Wisconsin, and it's not even close to happening here. One lawmaker is fighting an uphill battle -- pushing for legalization -- while other elected officials don't want to see it happen.medical-marijuana

For reasons you're about to learn, she only wants to be referred to as "Madeline."

Every night, just after dark, Madeline walks outside her Milwaukee home and hides behind a bush so her neighbors can't see her -- and then she lights a joint. Madeline knows full well she's breaking the law, but she also knows she's in a great deal of pain. She had several surgeries in 2015 and her doctor gave her one prescription of Oxycodone, a narcotic used to treat pain. She was not given a refill, but her pain remained.

Madeline is a mid-50s grandmother who works a full-time job, cares for her family and likes spending time with her husband to whom she's been married for decades. She doesn't like feeling like a criminal for breaking the law to treat pain. But she'll likely be feeling that way for awhile.

28 states allow some sort of medical marijuana use for their residents-including four states (Arkansas, North Dakota, Montana and Florida) that approved laws on November 8th.medical-marijuana3

Wisconsin is not likely to be the 29th.

But that doesn't stop Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) from trying.

The mother of four boys, Sargent has never ingested marijuana in any form. When she ran for office for the first time in 2010, she did not think she'd be the "pro pot" lawmaker, but she is the one leading the charge.

"I came to realize after some thoughtful conversations that the most dangerous thing about marijuana in the state of Wisconsin is the way we're treating it right now," Sargent recently told FOX6 News in her Capitol office.

Melissa Sargent

Melissa Sargent

Sargent is pushing for legislation that would create "compassion centers" for people dealing with medical conditions that could be helped by marijuana. She also argues the state is missing out on money.

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue estimates that more than $22 million could be made in the first year of legal marijuana sales. That number could triple in the second year.

"In a state where my colleagues say we're broke, this is a revenue stream as well," Sargent said.medical-marijuana2

Not far from Sargent's office, Attorney General Brad Schimel recently made his case for keeping marijuana-medical and recreational-illegal.

Schimel has received bi-partisan support for his pro-active stance on fighting opioid abuse, which he says is an epidemic in the state. Schimel does not buy the argument that legalizing pot would lessen the demand for pain-killing narcotics. Until the FDA and the American Medical Association give their blessing, he doesn't think state governments should either.

Brad Schimel

Brad Schimel

"I'd want to see the consensus of the medical community and we don't have that right now," Schimel said.

But Schimel also pointed out that Madeline should not feel like a criminal for seeking pain relief the way she does.

"It's now an ordinance for simple possession and not a criminal charge -- and that's a positive thing that we should have done long ago," Schimel said.

For now, that's what Madeline and countless others who smoke pot for their pain will have to accept.

22 comments

  • wheresthebeef

    Yes! Legalize it, medicinally and recreationally. The state could be making gobs of money on this. I can’t believe they’re passing up such an easy source of revenue.

    • inmybumhoehum

      They WANT government to fail to reinforce the narrative that it’s fundamentally bad. They’re no more interested in generating revenue than they are providing women’s health care.

  • jilemakr

    A relative in her mid-60s had pain issues with her knees and legs for ages. She was very reluctant to take prescription pain medication, so mostly she lived with it and was increasingly sedentary. A doctor commented that medical marijuana might help. She knew someone in who let her give it a try and to her surprise, it made a huge difference. She made a short move from northern Wisconsin to just over the border into upper Michigan and acquired a medical permit. She regained mobility which also led to losing about 70 lbs. That loss of weight helped further reduce the lower joint problems and reversed her pre-diabetic state.

    I know a couple more people who might be good candidates but they do not have the ability to move to another state where it is legal.

  • Peter

    Tragically, Wisconsin hisas not even decriminalized across the state as Minnesota dod in the 1970’s. Wisconsin is a regressive backwater state mired in the dark ages on this issue. The last time I visited family in WI, everybody, including two off duty police officers were so drunk they couldn’t even drive home much less stand. One guy was wetting his pants. So who was their designated driver? The only guy there who doesn’t drink, a guy who uses the safer, healthier alternative to rot but liquor, cannabis. What a weird backward place Wisconsin is. It’s like stepping into the past twenty years. I recommend any young person with a brain and degree just move asap as precious generations have. Vote with your feet and dollars young people! All that is left in WI, is terrible life destroying laws like these, poverty, hopelessness, unemployment, racism, xenophobia, alcoholism and obesity. Sad. Enjoy the dark ages Wisconsin.

  • Gary

    I have lived in Washington State where we legalized medical marijuana in 1998 and recreational in 2012. Wisconsin isn’t missing the boat, it has missed the boat!
    I can assure you the sky has not fallen. Seattle is filled with billionaires. It’s an awesome, thriving boomtown, jobs are everywhere and Seattle has less than half the violent crime of Milwaukee. I can assure you, the 100 million annually we have taken away from the violent drug cartels still operating in Wisconsin by legalizing, taxing and regulating this vast and growing black market could really help rebuild Wisconsin’s crumbling infrastructure roads and schools. Oh well, Walker and Schimel and other politicians obviously know better. That’s why WI has the 35th best economy while WA state has the 1st. See Forbes, Business Insider etc. Now, if you want to know why cannabis is really still illegal in WI, research the Tavern League, pharmaceutical industry doling out poison opioids, private prison industry and law enforcement addicted to federal drug war grants as well as disgusting civiI forfeiture laws. I agree with the others, anyone who is thoughtful, peaceful, educated and conscientious needs to get out of Wisconsin before you end up being locked up in jail for a doobie by a bunch of ignorant drooling hypocritical half wit drunkards that have complete power in the state. Ending prohibition is not in conflict with conservative ideaology. The libertarians lnow this. It is a basic economics issue but also a basic civil rights issue. My body, my rights. It’s been going on for thousands of years and the failed drug war or anything else so ever stop it. Americans want freedom. Wisconsin is there to deny it to people. You missed the boat Wisconsin. The freedom and prosperity boat.

  • Terry

    Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois and all of Canada have legalized. Minnesota and Illinois have decriminalized state side (not Wisconsin) as well. All of Canada is legalizing recreational cannabis in 2017. Wisconsin has nothing. Wow and it’s everywhere in the state already! Good luck with your Prohibition laws Wisconsin. You are now surrounded by states and an entire country that have widened up and ended this totally unnecessary madness. Legalize it! Regulate it! Tax it!

  • The gooseman

    I had 5 uncles in Northern WI. Four never amounted to much and drank themselves to death by age 45. The 1 that is still alive quit drinking decades ago and only uses cannabis everyday. He vaporizes or makes a high tea, no smoking needed. He is a thriving, intelligent, healthy, physically fit, hard working, loving, caring successful businessman and involved citizen, NOT a criminal. I’d rather emulate him and be alive, successful, healthy and happy vs depressed, unsuccessful, drunk or even dead regardless of Wisconsin’s terrible prohibition laws. Reality wins. Willie Nelson learned this a long time ago too. Quit drinking, start runnng, exercising and burn one in the evening. Wisconsin will pick up Willie and Rick Steve’s too! Prohibition is so wrong and guess what, it still doesn’t work. Legalize it.

  • Harry T

    Leave it to pill-popping, drug pushing junkies to support this initiative. If they want to use drugs that bad, leave this state and never come back.

    • Chrisco

      You fell for reefer madness. Get with the times. Alcohol is more additive. Caffeine has been proven to be more additive.

    • Stu

      Said the alcoholic, sugar addicted, poison opioid pill popping hypocrite…Newsflah, cannabis is all around you everyday in Wisconsin, like it or not. Do you want to accept reality or stick your head in the sand? Legalize and regulate this market Wisconsin!

  • Chrisco

    Yes we are. I have to use illegally for my epilepsy with doctor approval. That and one other drug gave me my life back. I came down with adult on set epilepsy. Try leading a life were you can not drive. I am a school train rough carpenter and could not work. I could not live a normal life. I have fallen over in the middle of a grocery store because I was having a seizure. I have had seizure is multiple places. I was terrified of just going out to eat. After all the other combination of drugs failed, my doctor asked if could find any. My roommate. 6 months after adding that and one very very expensive and hard to find drug they went away. I have been seizure free for 4 years. March 23rd will be 5 years. I am no longer on disability. I can drive again. I can work again. My boss took me back after me being gone for 2 years and makes an exemption for me for drug test. I want to see all of you live like that and your opinion will change.

  • Tully M. Pick

    It’s completely ridiculous that we haven’t legalized marijuana yet. The tax revenue alone would help the state tremendously. You can go to any backwater hillbilly bar in the state and buy whatever drugs you want already. The stupid “War on Drugs” doesn’t stop crime, it’s an assault on my wallet. Legalizing it would make the bottom of the drug market drop out overnight. There are literally no downsides to legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use!

  • DOITALREADY

    Wisconsites acts like marijuana is a big deal yet this state has an OWI problem due to drunk driving. So stupid.

  • Trotter

    Not sure why the legislators don’t do their jobs and support the strong majority (over 60% and rising) of Wisconsinites will be ending the disastrous policy of Prohibition? That’s why they were elected afterall. Prohibition does not work, see alcohol and Al Capone etc…dumb. The facts are Marijuana prohibition has been far more deletetious to our the individual and society than marijuana itself ever had been or ever will be. It’s time to end this crazy, utterly failed policy and start accepting reality for what it is. The people have spoken but our representatives to nothing. Time to call, write and email your representatives, Republican and Democrats and tell them to do what we the people want and Legalize it!

  • Todd

    Legalize it Wisconsin. Your horrible roads and failing schools will thank you nand you will create a much more sane, egalitarian society at the same time. Contact your representatives.

  • Lagena R Brey

    Yes legalise it!! It would help people with seizures,pain! You name it! N recreational also so we can be free n Happy! It better then getting drunk n depressed from drinking and kill the tobacco’s industry like it’s killing us!!

  • Chris Taylor

    Wisconsin has a high incarceration rate, not entirely without thanks to our current governor, and minor drug offenses are a nice source of income. It’s no surprise that a large part of state government would want that revenue stream to continue. That aside, I am a veteran of the United States Army, and from the injuries and work I did in service I have pain every day physically and emotionally. I’ve been to the VA and of course they offer Physical Therapy and Pharmaceuticals, along with many other options for both mental and physical treatment options. I tried the Pharmaceuticals. They kill me. I turn into a Zombie, can’t look after my kids. My wife says I am hard pressed to get emotionally involved in issues while I am on prescribed drugs. I stopped my treatment plan after around 6 months when I got tired of the issues it was causing. I was introduced by friends to a local drug dealer. I started buying Marijuana(weed from here on out), about every two weeks. I started seeing this guy around 4 years ago. I can only guess how much money I’ve shuffled this guy’s way. When I smoke, I feel…better. No other way I can describe it. The pain in my back subsides almost immediately, my knees are no longer sore, and the anger and hostility I usually feel from day to day, that I had become accustomed to over my Military Term of Service and post deployment/Army life started to dissipate. I could walk around in this not quite haze, and laugh, run around with my kids and take some enjoyment outta the little things that I usually just avoid or get angry over. I am usually so “high alert” that when I smoke I get brought down to what I see from my civilian counterparts. What I want to describe as “Normality”. I take a trip out to Oregon state every short while to see my mom and dad. Before they legalized, yes I gave my money to a local dealer there that lived close to my family home. After legalization, I give my money to the state. I don’t like going to dealers, it’s shady. You often have other drugs around and it’s dangerous. Plus it’s a hit or miss whether you get regs, mids, or some good stuff. If I had the choice, I would give my money to the state every time. EVERY TIME. Oregon has more of my money thanks to weed than Wisconsin ever got from the taxes I pay. If people are worried about finding work because of drug tests, I will say that there are some very fine institutions that pay quite well without drug testing, and have plenty of room for advancement. Corporate grocery is ripe for the taking, especially Festival Foods. I don’t smoke then go to work, I find that my anger and slight hostility usually help me in the work place to stay on my game, but when I get home I love to unwind in my garage. I get away from my kids for 20 minutes, a little longer than the average time of a cigarette and take the world and my past off my shoulders for a while. Then I go inside, cook for my family, sit down, watch some TV and play with my kids. Just like any other normal American family. If you’re looking for a drug to vilify, it isn’t weed. It’s done more to help my motivation than anything else I’ve tried in the last 8 years. I’m not saying that it’s the answer all or even that it would work for every person who tries it. For me and my fellow veterans who have had similar experiences, and the civilians I know that have went through traumatic events, it works just fine and helps us talk about what bothers us. Wisconsin, if you read this know that your laws will never deter me from buying from a dealer, and just like the states that legalize, you’d have my money and support.

  • Trish

    It’s too late. Wisconsin missed the boat, as usual. Go to Denver and Seattle and see how great those cities are, tons of world class businesses, cosmopolitan culture, great jobs, money everywhere, home prices are through the roof and violent crime is half of most us cities including Milwaukee and see for yourself. Wisconsin is a joke by comparison. Dumb state. Legalize it

  • Cuttercurt

    It’s issues like this that helped Wisconsin earn its reputation of being an ignorant backwater and rightly so. It’s tragic but true. Alcohol is sooooo much worse and Wisconsinites fizzle it by the gallons legally but the peaceful, thoughtful artist who smiles a joint once in awhile while he plays the guitar or pets his car is considered a violent, evil, monster in Wisconsin. What an awful state. Avoid Wisconsin like the plague!!

  • Jeff

    Wisconsin=dumb that’s why the state is dead last yet again for entrepreneurs. People want economic and personal freedom but of course the ruling elites, like Walker, Vukmir, Vos and Schimel will never allow people to actually make money, keep it AND have personal freedom in Wisconsin. So all you can do is leave the state, start a business elsewhere, work hard and live happy and free somewhere else. It’s been that wayvconcerning Wisconsin my whole life, nothing has or ever will change either. Wisconsin=dumb. You can’t fix dumb, even with a 700 million dollar transportation shortfall, they will never see reality for what it is and end Prohibition. Heck, these clowns won’t even decriminalize state wide like Minnesota did in the 1970’s. All it does is create discord and massive problems, socially and economically for the state but they don’t care. Too much $ for the Tavern League, but alcohol and police in the state. Vote with your feet and tax dollars, packck your bags and leave Wisconsin.

  • Greg

    Wisconsin has not only missed the boat (medical marijuana has been legal out west since the 1990’s y’all) but in reality the state has chartered another boat altogether and is sailing backwards into time and into complete and total irrelevance. With Walker, Vos and Schmiel at the helm, continuing to obfuscate, stall and obstruct the will of the people on this issue, it’s best to abandon ship asap. Wisconsin is a sinking ship under their command.

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