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Our view: It’s time, Wisconsin should legalize marijuana

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When you crack open a cold beer, you can be pretty confident what’s in it. It’s regulated. There are nutritional facts on the side of the case; you know that “fentanyl” will not be in there.

Alcohol is dangerous. Prescription drugs are dangerous. Having guns around is dangerous. Marijuana is dangerous too. But three of those things are pretty much completely legal in the United States. One of them isn’t in most states and remains criminalized in Wisconsin, even though the majority of Wisconsinites think it should be legal — 61%, according to a February poll from Marquette Law School.

And this November, both Kenosha and Racine residents will have a chance to weigh in on the issue with an advisory referendum question that will be on the ballot.

Until recently, all marijuana users — some of whom are using THC to address pain, PTSD and other ailments that regulated medicines have failed to treat — have had to purchase through the black market in the Badger State. Since December 2019 and January 2020, respectively, Wisconsin residents could go across the border to Michigan or Illinois to buy marijuana legally, even if bringing it back home is a crime.

After Prohibition became law under the 18th Amendment initiated in 1920, per capita alcohol consumption in the U.S. only fell by around 10-30%. Legality didn’t have a massive effect on usage, and thus it didn’t have much of an effect on safety.

Instead, keeping marijuana illegal in Wisconsin is affecting safety.

In Illinois or Michigan — or any of the 19 states with legal recreational marijuana and 37 states with legal medicinal marijuana — the supply lines of the drug can be tightly controlled by health departments to make sure the product isn’t being tainted with something actually deadly.

In Racine County this summer, officials have reported a spike in local drug overdoses and in Racine, the police department reported in June it had recovered marijuana that tested positive for the presence of fentanyl.

People are not dying from marijuana alone. But they could die from marijuana laced with fentanyl.

Your 17-year-old nephew could be trying to have a relaxing night in with friends and end up on a morgue slab. Your 83-year-old great-aunt battling debilitating multiple sclerosis could die sooner than she should just because she wants the pain to stop, but there’s nothing doctors can do for her besides prescribe highly addictive opioids. A 58-year-old combat veteran with intense anxiety every day seeking relief can’t get it quickly without severe side effects because she lives in Wisconsin and doesn’t want to leave her home state for a place where she can use the drug she believes can work.

If marijuana is legalized, lives could and would be saved and a lot fewer people would end up behind bars for what are minor offenses compared to violent crimes.

Pulled over with a small amount of weed in your car? As long as you aren’t actively high, the cop won’t care in states where weed is legal. That could lead to fewer dangerous police chases too.

Like with alcohol, youths should still be prevented from using marijuana until they reach adulthood.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Early exposure to cannabinoids in adolescent rodents decreases the reactivity of brain dopamine reward centers later in adulthood. To the extent that these findings generalize to humans, this could help explain the increased vulnerability for addiction to other substances of misuse later in life that most epidemiological studies have reported for people who begin marijuana use early in life.”

The minimum age to purchase weed should be the same as alcohol, and there should be restrictions on advertising similar to how there are limits on advertising booze and cigarettes.

In addition to making marijuana safer, it can also be a revenue generator for the state to pay for things like more school funding or cracking down on more serious drugs.

When other states were just starting to sell legal marijuana it made sense for Wisconsin to wait and see what happened. It’s been a few years now and the sky is not falling.

People are doing marijuana, Wisconsin might as well regulate it to make it safer and get the revenue from it.

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