Thursday, April 16, 2015

Melissa Sargent's marijuana bill would benefit the state

Easing laws that aim to punish marijuana users the right direction to take

State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) recently submitted a bill encouraging the legalization of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes.
”Marijuana prohibition has not worked for Wisconsin. Ending this prohibition in our state would promote personal freedom and liberty, create financial opportunity, and increase safety and security in our communities. We have spent countless taxpayer dollars, imprisoned non-violent offenders, perpetuated falsehoods, and created a dangerous black market. This must end,” Rep. Sargent stated.
The bill has almost no chance of passing the Republican-held legislature. But Sargent is absolutely right to submit it nevertheless.

Rep. Melissa Sargent D-Madison
Marijuana poses no significant potential to harm society at-large. It’s no more dangerous than alcohol and no more unhealthy than conventional cigarettes. In some ways it’s healthier -- while people can overdose on alcohol it’s impossible to do so while smoking weed.

In plain English, it’s a drug that is on equal footing as other legal drugs already available to the public.

Sargent’s bill would require individuals to be over the age of 21 to recreationally use marijuana. We have the same standards on alcohol use. If both products produce the same results (that is, they both alter the state of mind of the user) then it only makes sense that this standard be uniform as well.

Legalizing marijuana makes sense from an economic point of view as well. Think of the number of people currently imprisoned because of marijuana. Now think of the money we’d save just by removing those people from jail.

Consider the revenue we’d gain by taxing marijuana. That alone makes it worthwhile to the state, which could stand to generate tens of millions of tax dollars if it implemented legalized weed.

But why submit the bill now, even when it will be impossible to pass? This bill draws attention to constituents and lawmakers alike. It opens up a conversation in communities across the state. And it does have support -- nearly half of Wisconsin residents support marijuana legalization.

If anything this bill accomplishes opening up the dialogue to a reasoned debate on marijuana policy in the state. Hopefully that debate will include facts, not fiction, on the drug itself. But this first step is necessary, and one we should applaud Rep. Sargent for taking.


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