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Wisconsin: Next State To Legalize Marijuana?

PHOTO: State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) will once again introduce legislation to legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana use in Wisconsin, saying the most dangerous thing about marijuana is that it remains illegal in Wisconsin. Photo credit: Dylan Brogan
PHOTO: State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) will once again introduce legislation to legalize medicinal and recreational marijuana use in Wisconsin, saying the most dangerous thing about marijuana is that it remains illegal in Wisconsin. Photo credit: Dylan Brogan
April 20, 2015

MADISON, Wis. – To state Rep. Melissa Sargent, a Madison Democrat, the numbers tell the story when it comes to legalizing marijuana use in Wisconsin.

Each time a police officer makes a stop for marijuana possession, it costs taxpayers on average $425, and there are far more arrests for marijuana than for all violent crimes combined.

Four states have already legalized marijuana use: Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

"You know I'm not sure if Wisconsin is the next state,” she says. “I certainly would love it if we were. I look at these states and the political make-ups of them, and some of them don't seem too different than we are. I think the big difference is that me, the person who has introduced this bill, has a D next to my name."

Sargent introduced a similar bill last session, but in the Republican-controlled legislature it didn't even get a public hearing. But she says it may be different this time.

"Well, I expect bipartisan support from my constituents and the people that live in the state, the people who are my true bosses, and in fact the true bosses of everyone that's in this Capital building,” she says. “I'm hopeful that there's a brave soul on the other side of the aisle that will call and say add my name to the co-sponsorship memo and help me have this conversation across the state of Wisconsin."

Opponents of the proposal say marijuana use is dangerous and that it's a gateway drug.

Sargent counters the most dangerous thing about marijuana in our society is that it remains illegal.

She says the demonizing of marijuana is long outdated, and if an individual action does not harm yourself, your neighbors, or your community, it is no business of the government. But she realizes passing such a bill is only one step.

"Legalizing marijuana isn't going to be a cure-all and a turnaround for everything overnight,” she concedes. “I do believe strongly that this is an opportunity for my colleagues, both Republican and Democrat, to put party affiliation aside and do something together in the best interests of everyday Wisconsinites."

Sargent says with limited resources and an overextended prison system, it is not sustainable to continue arresting and imprisoning people for these offenses.


Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI