Do Wisconsin Republicans really believe marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol? Or is their stubborn resistance to legalizing pot, even for medical purposes, just more conservative demagoguery?

Either way, the GOP must listen to the compelling case for legalizing marijuana. As state Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, pointed out in her latest, quixotic attempt at legalization, Colorado generated $2.4 billion in economic activity and created more than 18,000 new jobs in one year after it legalized pot. “The most dangerous thing about marijuana is that it’s illegal, and as our budget crisis worsens and we continue to see new evidence to support legalization’s economic benefits, the more unjustifiable — and even foolish — it becomes not to legalize,” she stated in a news release.

Sargent is correct in her analysis of the cost to society of pot being illegal, and of its potential benefits — both medical and economic.

Regarding the criminalization of marijuana: Like the prohibition of alcohol from 1920 to 1933, making pot illegal has created a violent, criminal subculture that’s taken a massive toll on American society. For African Americans — who are four to eight times likelier than whites to be arrested for pot possession — the criminalization of marijuana has contributed to an unprecedented epidemic of mass incarceration and perpetuated a seemingly intractable subculture of poverty and violence.

Regarding marijuana’s benefits: Pot is not perfectly harmless, but it clearly has valuable properties. It’s able, for instance, to help people suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy, certain kinds of seizures and post-traumatic stress syndrome. The full spectrum of its healing properties is unknown, however, because federal law for a long time prohibited research. From 2008 to 2014, the National Institutes of Health spent $1.4 billion studying marijuana, but $1.1 billion of it went to study abuse and addiction instead of medicinal value.

So what of dependence and the path to harder drugs?

About 9 percent of pot smokers become dependent on the drug. Compare that with the 16 percent of drinkers who become addicted to alcohol — by far Wisconsin’s mind-altering drug of choice.

Anti-marijuana forces constantly characterize pot as a “gateway” drug — one that leads inexorably to stronger, perilously addictive drugs. They ignore the fact that alcohol is the most common gateway to hard drugs — if you even buy the “gateway” metaphor to begin with.

Finally, regarding the economic benefits of legalizing pot: Previous efforts to legalize marijuana in the state have never received a public hearing or a Republican co-sponsor, and it looks like things will not be any different this time around. While the GOP sees itself as the “business party,” it continually refuses to consider creativity or innovation in economic development. Wisconsin’s GOP leaders seem incapable of keeping up with the times or making the state a more desirable place to live for people who do not think exactly like they do — a shrinking demographic.

Rather than considering the benefits of legalizing pot, Republicans’ idea of economic development is giving boatloads of taxpayer money to wealthy business interests that contribute to their campaigns, and the results have been disastrous. Wisconsin has the nation’s most rapidly shrinking middle class and among the nation’s lowest rates of new business startups and entrepreneurial activity.

Compare those results to Colorado’s pot-related economic boon. As Sargent said of her attempt to make that happen here: “This bill is so much more than legalizing marijuana — it’s about legalizing opportunity and prosperity. Wisconsin simply can’t afford to wait any longer — we deserve a real plan to create new jobs and stimulate our lagging economy, and that’s what this bill is.”

Republican unwillingness to consider marijuana legalization — or public transportation, a living wage and a host of other 21st-century ideas — is a crime against our collective future.

It’s enough to drive us to drink.


(1) comment


Our friends at Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (http://www.rampgop.org/) can build a relationship with Speaker Vos based on Conservative principles of Federalism and Personal Liberty. This is a God-given plant. There is a natural right. #FreedomMeansFreedom

Genesis 1:11-12 (KJV):

11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

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