Bill to legalize medical marijuana under review in Wisconsin
Published: Thursday, April 15, 2010
Updated: Thursday, April 15, 2010 01:04
If Assembly Bill 554 is voted into law, Wisconsin would be the 15th state to legalized medical marijuana.
Area residents who support the bill, also known as the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act (JRMMA), are hoping that the state legislature will vote in favor of the bill before it ends regular business on April 22.
Among the supporters of this bill is Gary Storck, president of Wisconsin NORML and director of communications of Is My Medicine Legal Yet?
Storck, who has congenital open-angle glaucoma, has been an advocate of medical marijuana for over 25 years.
He explained that a bill was passed on April 20, 1982 that authorized the establishment of therapeutic research programs to provide cannabis to patients.
Unfortunately for patients, the bill was written with the expectation that the federal government, who holds a monopoly on legal marijuana supplies, would be the provider.
This is what the new medical marijuana bill is trying to change.
Storck says medical marijuana is a safe and effective alternative to harmful prescription drugs.
"Many people are being harmed because they are being forced to take these drugs that are bad for their bodies," Storck said. "Many of the patients who are on these drugs say that they don't work well, were addictive or gave them symptoms that were intolerable."
According to Storck, the benefits of using a natural medication versus a synthetic one are great.
"Marijuana has never been proven to be harmful," Storck said. "It has never killed any lab animals during tests, and it doesn't mess with serotonin levels in the brain. It is a natural herb that has been used for thousands of years, so it has a long-term history of being very healthy."
According to David Nordstrom, a professor at the UW-Whitewater who recently debated with Storck, said we should be doing more test on this drug before we legalize it.
He said that he is not an ac tivist on the issue and is not lobbying for or against the legalization of the drug.
"There are those who want to throw the FDA out the window and go through the legislative political process to choose drugs. That's not right in my opinion," Nordstrom said.
Nordstrom also said he doesn't think there is much backing for the drug by health officials or medical providers.
William Stephan, student nurse's aide at UW-Oshkosh's Student Health Center, said marijuana has many adverse effects a lot of people are not aware of.
"Marijuana is a harmful drug that has adverse effects such as psychotic disorders, increased anxiety and depression. Research has also shown that the drug affects heart rate, coordination and memory and could cause learning difficulties," Stephan said.
Stephan believes that if more people would take the time to research the drug's true effects, they would no longer support the bill.
A recent poll by ABC News showed that 81 percent of Americans support legalizing medical cannabis, including 75 percent of Republicans.
"I think it has a good chance of passing, but I think that the use will be so limited that many people will not be able to obtain a prescription," Stephan said.
Storck said the thinks most Democrats in the Wisconsin State Senate will vote to pass the bill. He is unsure about the response from the Republicans.
"No Republicans have come out and said that they will vote for the bill," Storck said. "Many have said that they support it, but aren't actively working to make it happen."
Storck said he is keeping his hopes up for the bill to pass, although, many are beginning to think it won't.
"We have until April 22 for it to pass out of both committees and have a floor vote," Storck said. "So far, no vote has been scheduled at this time. We really aren't seeing a lot of movement."
Storck said if the bill fails, it will be heartbreaking to many people in Wisconsin.
"The benefits outweigh the risks," Storck said.