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Officials make final push for 'yes' votes on medical marijuana referendum

County and city officials took to the Kenosha County Courthouse steps Wednesday afternoon for one final push to get members of the community to vote “yes” on a medical marijuana advisory referendum on county ballots Tuesday.

Sixteen counties and two cities — including Kenosha and Kenosha County — will have advisory referendums on their ballots, asking residents whether or not they believe medical marijuana should be legal.

For Kenosha County Supervisor Andy Berg, medical marijuana is an important tool that, if legalized, could be used by those in the medical professional to treat patients with a number of medical issues, including epilepsy, muscular sclerosis, schizophrenia and chronic pain.

“All of these ailments could be helped with a simple plant that grows on God’s green earth,” Berg said. “As of right now, 31 states have legalized medical marijuana. Some of those states include New Mexico, Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma, West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Ohio, Louisiana and Arkansas. Those are all Republican-run states. So there is absolute bipartisanship in our endeavor here.”

Craig Johnson, president of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative, a statewide organization dedicated to progressive reform of Wisconsin’s justice system, is encouraging voters to vote ‘yes’ on the referendum because “it’s time for Wisconsin to join the ever-growing list of states that have recognized that marijuana prohibition is an outdated and regressive policy.”

He also believes it is wrong “to create criminals out of people using cannabis for pain relief and to help with other symptoms.”

“Cannabis provides a non-addictive, safe pain management alternative for many people,” Johnson said. “And that’s one of the main reasons that we think it’s important to legalize medical marijuana. It’s simple. It’s inexpensive, and it’s less addictive than opioids.”

Alderman Anthony Kennedy, who serves as the president of the Kenosha City Council, also threw his support behind legalization Wednesday, saying that, after talking with Berg, he decided to give his recommendation to his constituents to vote in favor of legalization while walking his district recently.

“If there is something that’s going to help someone who’s ill, I can’t say no to that. And I’m asking our state legislators, if this passes here in the city of Kenosha and across our community, please listen. … Whatever we can do to push this forward, we need to do that,” Kennedy said.

For former county board supervisor and alderman Mark Modory — now serving as a community activist and citizen member of the Mental Health/AODA Committee — the issue is a very personal one.

“In 1979, I was diagnosed with the rare form of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis,” he said. “As I stand here right now, I’m in pain. As I walk down the street, I’m in pain. I was fortunate enough to be able to work 31 years before I had to retire on Social Security disability in 2004.”

In 2004, Modory’s rheumatologist prescribed him OxyContin, an opioid, for pain relief. Fortunately for Modory, he did not develop an addiction to the medication; however, now there is no one in his medical network that will prescribe him any pain medication at all, only telling him to take aspirin or Tylenol.

Modory talked about how his brother-in-law lives in Las Vegas, where marijuana is legal. Saying he has no interest in smoking marijuana, he said there are other methods for taking the drug in a controlled way that will also offer effective pain relief not only to himself, but also other people suffering from chronic pain.

“It’s in edible form,” he said while holding an empty package for a CBD and THC enriched sucker. “This is what you buy in Vegas. It’s like a lozenge. You take one of these, it’s a controlled dose. Seven hours of pure pain relief. I could sleep at night. I could walk around with pain relief.”

When it comes to using marijuana to help people kick their opioid addiction, Modory knows some people will question what good it does to get someone off of an opioid only to put them on another drug.

“There’s no evidence that it ever killed anyone, and heroin is killing hundreds of people,” Modory said. “There are so many uses for medical marijuana that, if it was legal in Wisconsin, my current rheumatologist could prescribe it to me. ... I urge everyone to vote ‘yes’ on the medical marijuana (advisory referendum).”

And even if voters vote “yes” on the advisory referendum Nov. 6, Kenosha County Board Supervisor Boyd Frederick is asking residents to take it a step further after the election and call on their legislators and newly elected officials to push them into taking action on getting something passed at the state level.

“Put a little pressure on them,” Frederick said. “It has been introduced in the Assembly already by Melissa Sargent, but it went nowhere. So now we need the 16 counties that are doing this to all come together and say, ‘Please, take a look at it.’”

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