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US - Madison Embraces Marijuana

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WI - Not only is the Mad City a drinking town, it's a smoking town, too. Any local pothead knows the weed here is plentiful and - at $50 a bag - is generally superb. Though other cities might outrank Madison as the nation's stoniest, Madison has embraced marijuana culture in ways that ought to be celebrated.

For 28 years, thousands have gathered on Library Mall each October for the Midwest's largest marijuana rally. The rally has brought to Madison many notable speakers who have lashed out against government and popular media demonization of marijuana, energizing the crowd prior to the march to the Capitol lawn.

Likewise, our local government largely agrees with the thousands of Dane County residents who've shown support for marijuana reform. At least half of our city alders support some form of decriminalization. In fact, General Ordinance 23.20 states up to 112 grams ( a quarter pound ) of weed can be legally possessed on private property. However, you face a $100 forfeiture for possessing the same amount on public property.

Remaining faithful to Madison's fighting spirit, several area groups for years have actively lobbied the government to reassess its drug policies. Groups like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and Students for Sensible Drug Policy have Madison chapters. Both groups are always seeking a few good foot soldiers to aid them in their fight against the government's war on marijuana.

In addition to these groups, Madison has also nurtured the homegrown Is My Medicine Legal Yet?, founded by Madisonian Gary Storck. Born with glaucoma, Storck has been a long time advocate of medicinal marijuana. You can read why on page XX.

Arguably, it's the mundane things that make a place what it is. Home to at least three "tobacco accessory outlets" and a variety of other stoner novelty shops, many underestimate contribution of these places to fostering a healthy sense of community for those who compose Madison's marijuana culture. On April 20 - the national holiday for stoners, according to Rick Cusik, editor of High Times magazine - you can catch a special showing of the film Grass. For show times and location, check out Best Bets on page XX.

Though Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard probably won't attend the Grass showing, the county's top cop has liberalized the county's marijuana laws. As DA, Blanchard has resolved minor possession cases with fines rather than criminal prosecution. He has also raised the legal possession weight from seven to 25 grams.

Unfortunately, Madison police aren't always as hip. With discretion to charge possession suspects under local, county or state law, Madison police officers too often employ the latter, more stringent state laws to the umbrage of some local activist groups.

In 2002, Progressive Dane's Drug Policy Taskforce called on Madison police to begin respecting the letter and the spirit of Madison's General Ordinance 23.20. "Law enforcement priorities are a local decision and the people of Madison have made it clear that marijuana prosecution is extremely low on our list of priorities," the taskforce wrote.

Fortunately, Madison's cultural sensibilities tower above the haze of convoluted politics that often cloud the marijuana debate. While stoners in Madison have it generally good, this is not to say all is well. According to the U.S. Justice Department, more than 700,000 of America's estimated 14.6 million weed smokers are brought up on marijuana charges each year. In 2000, 15,578 Wisconsinites were brought up on possession charges. Nationally, at least 10,000 people are currently serving jail or prison sentences for growing, selling or possessing pot.

Culturally, America appears ambivalent toward marijuana. Countless songs, films, television shows and comics have spoofed the stoner as a spaced out, harmless and comical element of society, yet the government has persistently tossed pot smokers into a life-altering matrix of legal quandaries. But we aren't here to debate this issue specifically. This week's 4:20 Special is simply a recognition to the marijuana culture that the citizens of Madison have seemed to embrace.

Happy 4:20!

Nathan J. Comp



Source: Core Weekly (Madison, WI)
Copyright: 2005 Core Weekly
Contact: ncomp@coreweekly.com
Website: http://www.coreweekly.com/
 
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