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Senate to Hear Pros, Cons of Legalizing Medical Marijuana


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The controversial issue of medical marijuana is the topic of an informal Wisconsin state Senate hearing at the Capitol Wednesday.

The hearing will feature testimony by three experts leading the battle to legalize medical marijuana. Following the speakers, the floor will be open for discussion.

Medical marijuana legislation was passed in the state Legislature in 1982, but the bill was only symbolic in its passage because it required but did not receive support from the federal government.

Gary Storck, director of the Madison chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said a medical marijuana user in Wisconsin would face criminal charges if caught with the illegal substance.

"Now a medical marijuana patient in Wisconsin faces the same predicament a recreational user would face," Storck said.

The hearing today is not in support of a specific bill, but rather to discuss this controversial health care matter. According to Storck, because Republicans have been in control of the Senate from 1993 until this past election, past bills encouraging the legalization of the drug for medical use have died in the Capitol.

"The GOP tends to vote as a block even though the individuals who elect them say they support marijuana," Storck said. "Hearing it in the Senate where the Democrats are in control gives the issue new light."

The informal hearing, Storck added, will hopefully lead to the drafting of medical marijuana legislation in the Senate.

"The hearing will clear up the mythology," Storck said. "It paves the way for a Senate Bill next session. Gov. Doyle said he would sign a bill if it reaches his desk."

Expert witnesses are going to answer questions in hopes of dispelling rumors commonly associated with marijuana. Storck said those who testify will help show the community that marijuana can be used for medical proposes and thus, should be treated like any other medical drug.

"If there was other medications we could take, we'd be glad to do it," Storck said. "[Marijuana] is the safest medicine for us."

Medical marijuana user George MacMahon will act as an expert witness at the hearing. The federal government sends him 300 pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes, totaling 11 ounces, every month. Storck said the program he receives the drug through was closed to new applicants in 1992.

Storck said David Bearman, a medical marijuana specialist, and Chris Fichtner, psychiatrist and expert on medical marijuana, will also testify in support of legalizing the drug for medical proposes in Wisconsin.

But not all legislators support medical marijuana legislation, specifically the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act – a bill in the Assembly that would permit those with debilitating medical conditions small amounts of marijuana. Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, said he is hesitant to support the bill because of the potential for recreational users to abuse the law.

"I think the legislation leaves a huge loophole for those who want to experiment with marijuana," Suder said. "Many of us are willing to take a look at the legislation, but the language needs to be tightened to prevent abuse."

The informal hearing is being held in room 411 South of the Capitol Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Source: Badger Herald (U of WI, Madison, WI Edu)
Copyright: 2007 Badger Herald
Contact: editor@badgerherald.com
Website: The Badger Herald - University of Wisconsin-Madison
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