Isiah Holmes

52 Legislative Candidates Support Legal Pot

But most candidates declined to answer survey by NORML.


By - Oct 11th, 2018 02:04 pm
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Marijuana plant. Photo by Jennifer Martin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Marijuana plant. Photo by Jennifer Martin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

With 16 counties and two cities having referendums on legalizing either medical or all marijuana use, the issue is getting increasing attention in Wisconsin. So where do the state’s legislative candidates stand on the issue? To answer that question the southeastern Wisconsin chapter of NORML — the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws — issued a survey to every state legislative candidate running in the November 2018 election.

The results? NORML notes that 52 of the 54 candidates who responded show a “commitment to legalize marijuana.”

“I really do think we’re coming to a turning point,” says executive director of SE WI NORML Eric Marsch. “The number of positive responses we’ve gotten is very encouraging.”

However, that represents a response by just 27 percent — 54 of 199 — candidates running. The positive responses included mostly Democratic, but also some Libertarian, Republican, and Constitutional Party candidates. “We’re happy to see a couple of Republicans showing their support”, reads NORML’s press release, “but we’re disappointed that so few of their colleagues joined them.”

Republicans, who have controlled both houses of the state Legislature since 2011, have been resistant to laws relaxing pot laws, though they did pass bills legalizing hemp and allowing the limited use of CBD, a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant for medical conditions.

NORML says it’s “glaring” how “out of touch” the GOP is with the rest of Wisconsin. A recent Marquette Law School poll found 61 percent of Wisconsinites support full legalization of pot. Products containing hemp and CBD are on the rise in Milwaukee, and can be found anywhere from gas stations to 414 Hemp, the hemp kiosk at Brookfield Square, one of the first such pop-ups in town.

“All candidates would be well served by openly supporting marijuana legalization,” the NORML press release declares. Marsch believes cannabis reform has the potential to swing many voters. “It profoundly impacts people’s lives”, he told Urban Milwaukee. “As to whether they can use it as medicine, or whether they have to fear going away to prison.”

Marsch cites a number of reasons many candidates didn’t respond to the survey, from busy campaign schedules to a fear of taking a stand that might lose them votes.

“I know there’s more supporters than what the survey says,” Marsch contends, based on private conversations he’s had with many politicians. Growing support among Wisconsinites might end up pushing them to speak out, he believes.

Two of the survey’s questions also revealed how comfortable candidates are with the likely impact of legalization. They were more comfortable supporting smoking lounges and patios, and least comfortable pardoning people arrested for cannabis before it was legal. Even Democrats weren’t eager to support this.

Marsch feels this is due to a “pathological idea of what criminal justice is supposed to be in this country. It’s about authority. It’s about maintaining control.” A change in views on this starts with humanizing those who are “victimized by the drug war,” Marsch says.

Meanwhile, he expects the pot referendums to be passed by big margins,  possibly 60 percent or higher.

“I think we could get 70 percent in Milwaukee,” he says.

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More about the Legalizing of Marijuana

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