Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Monona decriminalizes marijuana use, possession: Wisconsin should follow suit

The economic — and health — benefits of marijuana could be a boon for the state

The city of Monona, which sits just to the southeast of Madison, just decriminalized marijuana use and possession for law-abiding citizens over the age of 21.

By a 4-3 vote of the city council, a measure that would reduce the fine from $200 to no fine at all was approved. Mayor Bob Miller is also supportive of the measure.

The fines for users under the age of 21 remains $200, a point that advocates pushed for themselves to reinforce the idea that marijuana use should only be decriminalized for adult use only.

This move is the right direction to head in, and the state ought to look at its own standards as well. Other states across the nation have already decriminalized or outright legalized marijuana use. Wisconsin should follow suit: there is no reason that this drug, which is safer than alcohol consumption in most cases, should remain illegal.

It should be strictly regulated, of course. Every effort should be made to prevent minors from using marijuana, and hotels, restaurants and apartment complexes should have the right to tell occupants that they cannot smoke marijuana in their buildings (in fact, Wisconsin’s smoking ban should apply to marijuana smokers, too). Use while driving should also be strictly forbidden.

But we must remember that marijuana is relatively safe to use. And its legalization could be a boon to the economy. In Colorado, for instance, reported $17 million in added tax revenues — and that’s just for January of this year. For the entire year of 2016, the state reported over $200 million in tax revenues.

Wisconsin should follow other states' leads and look into legalizing marijuana itself, especially since we’re currently suffering the effects of being hit with a tight budget. A substantial amount of those revenues could go toward ensuring roads are well funded, or that public schools receive the adequate supplies that they need, for example.

Even taking a moderate approach on marijuana decriminalization would be helpful: legalizing it for medicinal purposes could comfort hundreds of thousands of patients in the state, and can help stave off the opioid crisis that Wisconsin is facing.

Conservative lawmakers that run Wisconsin will not likely budge on this. But it’s an issue they ought to reconsider: marijuana decriminalization, and eventual legalization, would be beneficial to the state’s budget as well as to the overall health of its citizens.


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