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April 27, 2007

Global Marijuana March in Stevens Point on Saturday May 5

Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, April 27, 2007

Because of the Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival click here, the 37th annual scheduled for Oct. 6 & 7 this year, there has not been a lot of energy put into the Global Marijuana March, timed for the first weekend in May. This year, in fact, the ONLY Global Marijuana March in Wisconsin is happening up in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, staged by the good folks of the BR Family click here.

When? Saturday May 5, 2007 at 2 p.m.
Where? Gather K-Mart parking lot on N. Division at Maria
Bandshell Festivities after the March @ Pfiffner Park featuring speakers and music!

More info: click here

Posted by Gary at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2007

Vukmir’s new blog explains her philosophy for ignoring the will of her constituents

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rep. Leah Vukmir, the Assembly Health committee chair who vowed to block medical marijuana legislation click here, has a new blog on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel website.

It's aptly titled the "Backroom Blog." After all, is it not the backrooms of the Capitol where decisions to block popular issues like medical marijuana are made? Speaking of “back,” Vukmir said mmj was a "backdoor" to full legalization. In her introductory message, she shows her hypocrisy by stating her vision of government, totally ignoring the overwhelming support for medical cannabis in her district and this state. How does she sleep? Meanwhile, it’s been a week since we delivered Jacki’s letter, and no answers from Vukmir yet.

MONDAY, April 23, 2007, 3:57 p.m.
Backroom Blog: Leah Vukmir click here

By Rep. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) click here.

I am grateful for this opportunity to talk about the legislative process and am particularly pleased to share the Backroom Blog with my colleagues, Rep. Fields, Sen. Kedzie and Sen. Plale.

I was first elected to the Assembly in 2002 and am currently in my third term. I consider it an honor and privilege to represent the people of the 14th Assembly District and I take seriously my oath and charge.

People often ask me how I decide to vote on the various bills put before the legislature. Do I take a poll of all my constituents on each and every issue or do I base my decisions on the philosophy of government that I represented to the people when I first campaigned? The answer to that question is simple. The people of my district elected me because we share a similar vision and philosophy of government. That philosophy of government guides me in the decisions I make on a daily basis. It provides a roadmap for the path I take as I work to move our state forward. My constituents trust me to stay true to our shared philosophy and they keep me informed through their letters, calls or during my visits throughout the district. In the end, they trust me to uphold those values shared by the majority in our district.

So what is my philosophy of government? Simply put, the role of state government is to empower people to take care of themselves, but at the same time keeping in mind that government must also provide a safety net for those who cannot care for themselves. I evaluate every piece of legislation that comes before me with that in mind and by asking two essential questions: What is the underlying problem the bill is attempting to solve? Is it the role of state government to solve this problem?

Often times, people look to government to address a problem that could be solved through their own initiative or through the private sector. Frequently, government solutions create more problems than they solve or are inefficient. As a conservative, my belief in the limited role of government acts as my primary guiding principle.

My top priority this session is to help our Assembly Republican team deliver a budget that has no tax increases, no segregated fund raids and reduces the size of state government. Wisconsin’s tax burden is the 7th highest in the nation and it is time for our legislature to put the interests of taxpayers first by rejecting the Governor’s proposed $2 billion in new taxes and fees.

Education reform – the issue that initially sparked my involvement in the legislative process - will continue to be a priority of mine. In the last session, it was a privilege to lead the fight to lift the cap on our Milwaukee parental choice program. I will continue the battle to protect this landmark program. The success of Milwaukee’s children determines the future of our state.

This session as the chairman of the Assembly Committee on Health and Health Care Reform, I am in a unique position to draw on my 25 years of experience as a pediatric nurse practitioner. We are at a critical juncture in health care and I look forward to advancing free market reforms that will create competition, improve access, lower costs, and most important, put patients first.

As the session unfolds, I look forward to sharing my thoughts and perspectives on these and many other issues. Let the blogging begin!

--------------------

Posted by Gary at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2007

Lankford Hearing canceled!

Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, April 23, 2007 4:20 p.m.

I have just received word that the hearing scheduled for Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. for Chris Lankford has been canceled, as the DA has requested it be reset for a status conference. No further information is available at this time.

Posted by Gary at 04:18 PM | Comments (0)

Letter: DA Wastes Resources On Vindictive Pot Case

Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, April 23, 2007

Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal, on Page C2, the Forum section, contains a kinder and gentler version of a letter I submitted about the Lankford hearing on Tuesday.

Below is the letter as published. See you at the Courthouse Tuesday!

Wisconsin State Journal
Sunday, April 22, 2007

DA Wastes Resources On Vindictive Pot Case

If the four letters printed in Thursday’s Spectrum section reflect the majority sentiment, marijuana prohibition should be in its last gasps. Not so, judging by District Attorney Brian Blanchard’s reaction to a letter of rebuke sent by four county supervisors regarding his choice to file felony distribution charges over an arrest at Harvest Fest 2006 ("Board Members Rip Marijuana Prosecution," in the April 10 Wisconsin State Journal).

The felony case against Chris Lankford continues to go forward, absorbing scarce tax dollars. The next move comes on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in Room 1A of the courthouse, 215 S. Hamilton St.

I imagine most residents haven't yet seen the inside of our new multi-million dollar palace of justice. Not only can they now tour the building, but also support Lankford and speak out against government waste and for civil liberties.

It will be an example in citizen oversight of how our scarce and expensive criminal justice resources are being wasted in a vindictive prosecution that should never have been filed. This is about much more than marijuana. Come and see what we’re getting for our taxes. Do you feel safer?

-- Gary Storck, co-founder, Madison chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws

Posted by Gary at 12:08 AM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2007

Party on 4/20, support Chris Lankford on 4/24

Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, April 20, 2007

Wherever you celebrate 4/20, please remember our brothers and sisters who have been caught up in the injustice system for cannabis. With about 800,000 Americans arrested for pot each year, there are a lot of sad stories and lives put on hold, as many of us know from personal experience(s).

Typical of these sad stories is the case of Chris Lankford.

Of the hundreds gathered at Library Mall to parade up State Street, as part of the annual Marijuana Harvest Fest last October 8, it's safe to say none expected to spend the night in jail for passing a white cylindrical object to a fellow marcher as the parade began.

Unfortunately, while most marchers safely made it to the State St. steps of the Capitol, two were seized by UW Police Officer Mike Mansavage. One of the two, Chris Lankford, is now facing FELONY DISTRIBUTION charges for an arrest made without probable cause.

On Tuesday April 24, at 10:30 a.m., there will be a preliminary hearing on the felony charges at which Officer Mansavage will have to take the stand and submit to questioning by Peter Steinberg, Lankford's lawyer. For anyone who has ever been given a hard time by a police officer over cannabis, this will also be an opportunity to see the tables turned. Officer Mansavage is also notorious for arresting US Senate candidate Ben Masel and emptying a can of pepper spray in his face in June 2006, as Ben collected signatures for his nomination papers, like other candidates often have done.

That alone should make it worth showing up, but more importantly, we must show up to support Chris Lankford to send a strong message to Dane County DA Brian Blanchard that this wasteful persecution is just plain wrong.

Chris took a bust that could have been anyone. The rest of us got off lucky. So invest in a little time and be at the Dane County Courthouse, 215 S. Hamilton St. in downtown Madison, Room 1A at 10:30 am. As always, arrive early to clear the metal detectors, and make sure you leave anything they might detect at home.

Have a safe and hempy 4/20, and see you at the courthouse Tuesday!

Posted by Gary at 12:04 AM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2007

Hemp bill hearing and a busy day at the Capitol

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, April 19, 2007

Wednesday was a busy day at the Capitol, with the legislature in session and a number of public hearings scheduled throughout the day. In Room NW-328, the Committee on Rural Economic Development gave a good reception to Assembly Bill 146, which proposes the state study allowing farmers to produce agricultural hemp.

Among those testifying were a pair of family farmers on whose farm hemp had been cultivated, with government approval, to help out the war effort. They brought with them a 1944 federal contract allowing them to produce hemp and a Marihuana Tax Stamp. It was an amazing little document.

A number of familiar faces were also present including Rich Ray, the owner of Madison’s great hemp store, Hempen Goods click here, Ben Masel, well-known for his hemp expertise, along with hemp supporters from Green Bay, Sauk County and the Stevens Point areas, both locales that saw hemp cultivation before the government lost its mind regarding the cannabis plant.

Reflecting back on the day, which included playing postman for Jacki click here, visiting lawmakers offices, and showing first time visitors the ropes, like how to register at a hearing, it was very productive.

How can we find a way to get more people to interact with their elected representatives regarding the cannabis issue? It means something when a group of folks take an interest in changing things and make the effort to visit the Capitol and make their views known. Kudos to the vanload of young activists from Stevens Point that drove down to support the hemp bill, meet their lawmakers’ staff, and generally show support for cannabis law reform. If more folks from around the state would organize and lobby, I believe things could be different. If nothing else, it’s a beautiful building, and it belongs to the people. Too many legislators come and go without ever realizing its supposed to be about the people. We need to reclaim it.

Oh yeah, and speaking of reclaiming, please come down to the Dane County Courthouse next Tuesday, April 24, for the preliminary hearing in the ridiculous overprosecution of Chris Lankford by Dane County DA Brian Blanchard. We need to reclaim sanity in the county’s criminal justice system, when a man is facing felony charges for passing a joint at Harvest Fest 2006 in Madison. Courthouse is at 215 S. Hamilton at 10:30 AM, Room 1A. Be sure to arrive a few minutes early to clear the metal detectors, and remember to leave anything at home that might set them off!

Posted by Gary at 12:36 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2007

Special delivery for Rep. Vukmir!

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, April 18, 2007

State Rep, Leah Vukmir’s click here outrageous comments about medical marijuana from an April 10, 2007 Wisconsin State Journal article have kind of hung in the air since I first read them over the phone to my friend Jacki Rickert:

special+D_041907.jpg
Gary delivers Jacki's
letter to Rep. Vukmir's aide.

vukmir_a14.jpg
Assembly Health Committee Chair
Rep. Leah Vukmir
R- Wauwatosa

patio_jacki.jpg
IMMLY Founder
Jacki Rickert

But Rep. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Health and Healthcare Reform, said she would continue her opposition to medical marijuana because of concerns about its safety.

Vukmir, a nurse, said she believes it is better for patients to use medications that have been approved or may soon be available than to have people grow their own marijuana.

"I will refuse to put members through the circus of a hearing for a bill that is not going to go anywhere," Vukmir said. "This is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to legalize marijuana, which is not going to happen on my watch."

Source: Wisconsin State Journal, April 10, 2007

[snip]

Rep. Vukmir’s diatribe left Jacki deeply hurt. She could not understand how someone who is a nurse and who heard her speak and saw how difficult it is for Jacki to move and how frail she is could say such hateful things. She did not think that in a state where public support for legalizing medical cannabis is above 80% that it was right for a committee chair to vow to kill yet another medical marijuana bill in Wisconsin, nor did I.

Jacki had herself hand-delivered a letter to gubernatorial candidate Mark Green’s office in Green Bay last October click here to take issue with similarly mean-spirited, compassion-impaired language in a letter then - U.S. Rep. Green wrote to me after the Raich decision in 2005. Green never took the time to respond, but Jacki’s friends in Green Bay kept asking for answers all the way to Election Day in November 2006. Once he had lost, his staff said he didn't have to answer.

Thus, it seemed only natural for Jacki to again put her feelings in writing, and have me drop them off, being in much closer proximity to the people’s house. Jacki labored for days, trying to find the right words to describe how Vukmir’s trashing of medical cannabis patients made her feel. She finally finished it early this morning, and I got it ready for delivery, along with the press release, a copy of the American Nurses Association resolution supporting medical marijuana, a copy of an April 17, 2007 CBS News article about marijuana shrinking lung tumors in mice, and an editorial from the April 18, 2007 Chicago Sun-Times urging the Illinois legislature to legalize medical marijuana and pass legislation now before it "Editorial: Legalize Medical Marijuana," click here.

April 18, 2007: Jacki's letter to Rep. Vukmir, hand delivered by Gary Storck and a group of ten Wisconsinites also outraged by her comments:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

An open letter to Rep. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa

Dear Rep. Vukmir,

In just three paragraphs, you were able to hurt me, and many other people in this Great State of Wisconsin with your vicious, prejudgemental words in the Wisconsin State Journal about medical cannabis.

Is your public statement that you will continue to be in opposition to medical Cannabis/Marijuana ONLY your feeling, or are you speaking in behalf of the entire Assembly? You also spoke of concerns about its safety. Would you share your research with the people of WI? I think it fair to say the vast majority of this Great State, over 80% disagree with you, as shown by the results of the Chamberlain Research Poll that IMMLY commissioned in 2002 (http://www.immly.org/poll.htm).

Speaking as a nurse, how could you not see the obvious? Not all people find enough relief, and some have allergic reactions to many approved drugs. Several people, including myself, have opened up their hearts to the Assembly, telling the truth of the great benefits of Medicinal Cannabis/Marijuana.

As per your quote "I will refuse to put members through the circus of a hearing for a bill that is not going to go anywhere."

Since we, the people are not members, you must think these brave patients are a circus for the sole purpose of either entertaining you, or simply taking up time. I think this needs to be said for all those people who had a difficult time getting to Madison, the pain of 2-6 hr. drives, the expense of a hotel, not to mention the toll on one's body already in pain...some left their homes & their beds to testify, as we know we have little or no choice if we want to have the chance to convince the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Assembly Health Committee just how important it is to have safe and legal access to a God-given, healing herb. We are only asking for a "quality of life, not a mere existence." Many people are beyond hurt by you comments to the Wisconsin State Journal.

I think if anything were turned into a circus???? These statements feel so cold, and make me think that you either had blinders & earplugs on the day we spoke before the Assembly (you were there) & gained little or no knowledge of the medicinal properties of Cannabis. Were you mocking people who spoke only truth? Otherwise one would have to wonder if you EVEN CARE about the living, breathing truth that spoke, hoping for much more than the "kick 'em while there already down."

We thought we were going to speak about a very important issue, Rep.Vukmir. In 1997, when the Journey for Justice arrived in Madison after 7 long days from Mondovi to Madison; we went in the FRONT door of the Capitol. How do the people of your district feel about "not on my watch"???

Are you doing the will of the people, or Rep. Leah Vukmir's will? Do you represent the views of the majority in your district? Nobody stays 49 years old forever. People age, people get sick, sometimes even with heritable diseases and/or syndromes that can change our lives forever, never knowing the time or degree of such.

I really think you owe an apology to the people for such comments you seemed to have freely felt and spoken. Did you not hear the cries that people live with everyday, nor have the least bit of compassion?

We have never asked to have special treatment...just a fair, legal, chance for treatment. Never, did we think we would be referred to as a circus. I don't understand.

Please share what drugs may soon be available and when. The most incredible lady I have ever met, was told to wait for SOON... for years, but soon never came in her lifetime. As I close, could you please tell us your definition of SOON???

Jacki Rickert
Founder of Is My Medicine Legal YET? (IMMLY)
Mondovi, WI

IMMLY's Press Release about today's action:

For immediate release Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Activists Mark 25th Anniversary Of 1982 Signing Of Wisconsin Medical Marijuana Law By Delivering Letter To Medical Marijuana Opponent Rep. Leah Vukmir

Mondovi & Madison - Twenty-five years after the signing of Wisconsin's first medical marijuana bill, state activists plan to deliver a letter Wednesday to Assembly Health Committee chair Rep. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, from IMMLY Founder and medical cannabis patient Jacki Rickert of Mondovi, regarding comments made by Vukmir in an April 10, 2007 Wisconsin State Journal article.

The State Journal reported Vukmir believes it is better for patients to use medications that "may soon be approved" than marijuana, and that she would not allow a hearing when medical marijuana legislation is introduced this session, saying it would be "a circus" and a "backdoor attempt to legalize marijuana, which is not going to happen on my watch."

Nearly 25 years ago to the date, on April 19, 1982, then Gov. Lee Sherman Dreyfus, a Republican, signed Assembly Bill 679 into law, creating a controlled substance therapeutic research program to supply medical marijuana to Wisconsin cancer chemotherapy and glaucoma patients. The bill had easily passed the Assembly 77-19 and the Senate 32-1 in 1981. Although federal refusal to supply medical marijuana for the program rendered it symbolic, the law put Wisconsin on record in support of compassionate access to medical cannabis.

Ten years ago, in September 1997, Jacki Rickert led 15 medical cannabis patients on a wheelchair "Journey for Justice" 210 miles from Mondovi to the State Capitol in Madison to kick off the introduction of medical marijuana legislation sponsored by Rep. Frank Boyle (D-Superior) and then-State Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison). The bill was blocked in the Assembly Health Committee by then chairman Rep. Gregg Underheim (R-Oshkosh). Six years later, after undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, Underheim sponsored medical cannabis legislation and held a committee hearing. Five years ago, a poll conducted by Chamberlain Research on behalf of IMMLY found 80.3% support statewide.

"In Nov. 2005, Rep. Vukmir personally witnessed Jacki's frail condition, saw her pain and heard her tell the committee how cannabis helped her survive," said Gary Storck, IMMLY's director of communications. "The science of medical cannabis is now irrefutable, and public support is overwhelming. For someone trained as a nurse to tell patients like Jacki, who are suffering today, to wait for medications that may be approved in the future when cannabis is available now, is so coldhearted it calls into question her fitness as Health Committee chair."

Is My Medicine Legal YET? is a Mondovi and Madison based grass roots patient and caregiver organization dedicated to advancing public education about the medicinal benefits of marijuana. For further information contact Jacki Rickert at 715.926.4950 or Gary Storck at 608.241.8922/217.4136 or visit the IMMLY website at www.immly.org.

-30-

As IMMLY’s press release notes, it’s been 25 years since Republican governor Lee Sherman Dreyfus signed Wisconsin’s first medical marijuana law. Back then, the science of medical cannabis was less understood. The first law only covered glaucoma and cancer chemotherapy patients. Today, we know much more, and that is why Vukmir’s willful ignorance is so galling. If a medical marijuana bill could easily pass in 1981, why is it being blocked in 2007? The 1981 Wisconsin legislature thought they had found a way to get pot to patients, but the federal government refused to supply it. Result: a law that is only symbolic. But the symbol should stand for something.

Meanwhile, Jacki is waiting for an answer…Leah, you’ve got her number!


Posted by Gary at 08:49 PM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2007

Capital Times editorial: Madison & marijuana

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Capital Times on Wednesday published an editorial noting the recent anniversary of Ord. 23.20, and editorializing in favor of a statewide decriminalization law to "bring state law in line with local ordinances - and the clear intent of the citizenry."

I can't help but feeling a little deja vu after having read similar sentiments in 3 decade old articles and editorials in the Capital Times, Wisconsin State Journal and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel while researching my presentation on 23.20’s origins for the anniversary commemoration on April 5.

Coming on the heels of the 1972 federal Shafer Commission report, which urged decriminalizing cannabis, and statewide hearings on pot laws held at 8 Wisconsin locations in 1975, decriminalization had wide support from then-Gov. Patrick Lucey and Attorney General Bronson LaFollette to state agencies, treatment providers, and groups like the League of Women Voters. Despite this support, a statewide decriminalization law was never passed in the 1970's, and the backlash of the Reagan years and Tommy Thompson's pandering to the "tough on crime" crowd actually made marijuana laws harsher.

While current state law allows municipalities and counties to adopt decriminalization ordinances, a statewide law faces significant opposition from some ever-grandstanding Republicans, like Rep. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa), who called medical marijuana a backdoor way to legalize marijuana that was not going to happen "on her watch." For far too long, partisan politics has replaced common sense and the better good of all state residents in deciding how our state should be governed. In the case of cannabis, the result has not just been numerous lives ruined by harsh criminal prosecutions, but generations of sick people forced to choose between breaking the law and their own health and quality of life. The editorial’s suggestion is a tall order for a body not known for thinking outside the box.

Source: Capital Times
Pubdate: 11 April 2007

EDITORIAL: MADISON & MARIJUANA

The intent of Madison voters, established by referendum three decades ago this spring, is that individuals should not be prosecuted for possessing small amounts of marijuana intended for personal use.

By and large, local officials respect that intent. Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard's office no longer files criminal charges against individuals possessing less than 25 grams of marijuana - roughly an ounce. For the most part, local police officers understand that it is neither necessary nor practical to go after recreational or medical users of the substance.

Unfortunately, Madison's sensible approach remains at odds with state laws. That puts local law enforcement officials in a bind, creating confusion and opening the prospect that cases may be treated unequally.

Madison's representatives in the Legislature have been in the forefront of pushing for the decriminalization of medical marijuana, which is good. But they should also be pushing for a more general decriminalization to bring state law in line with local ordinances - and the clear intent of the citizenry.

Posted by Gary at 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2007

State Journal: After 30 years, another push to relax pot laws

Posted by Gary Storck
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sandy Cullen from the Wisconsin State Journal wrote this fine article around Madison Ordinance 23.20 anniversary and Madison NORML’s recent commemoration. The print version is accompanied by a 1979 photo showing Madisonians smoking a 3-foot long doobie at some cannabis event, and a more recent photo of a couple of young gents smoking white cylindrical objects while sitting at a table. Almost looks like it could be a cannabis coffeeshop, although it's apparently a private residence, although one can dream.

wsj_20070410.jpg click here to view PDF of front page.

bigdoobie.jpg

The very wide-ranging article concludes by documenting the hysterical anti-medical marijuana zealotry of Republican Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa), chair of the Assembly Health Committee. Vukmir, was vice-chair of the committee when Rep. Underheim held mmj hearings, and constantly badgered patients and made hostile remarks. If she's worried about hearings becoming circuses, she ought to recuse herself. Vukmir is completely out of touch with the opinions of not only those she claims to represent, who according to the 2002 IMMLY poll support medical cannabis more strongly than the state average (81.9% to 80.3%) click here. And despite her nursing credentials, her opinions on medical cannabis conflict with those of the Wisconsin Nurses’ Association, the American Nursing Association, the nursing organizations of a dozen plus other states as well as some organizations of professional nurses who have gone on record in support of legalizing access to medical cannabis..

Source: Wisconsin State Journal click here
Pubdate: April 10, 2007
Author: Sandy Cullen

Madison Voters Passed A Law In April 1977 That Permits Possession Of Small Amounts Of Marijuana In Private Places

AFTER 30 YEARS, ANOTHER PUSH TO RELAX POT LAWS

CORRECTION: The full name and title of Allen St. Pierre was omitted from a story on marijuana laws on Tuesday's front page. St. Pierre is executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

(correction published 4-11-07)

Thirty years ago, Madison was at the forefront of the effort to bring the nation's marijuana laws in line with growing public opinion that, among adults, smoking a joint is akin to drinking a beer.

But after three decades, Madison's historic ordinance permitting possession of small amounts of marijuana remains at odds with state and federal laws, putting city police in a difficult position.

And Madison advocates are still pushing for Wisconsin to join other states that have relaxed their laws against pot.

"Once again, from the bottom up, we're seeing an upswing in activism," said Gary Storck, co-founder of the Madison chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and a medical marijuana activist and patient.

On April 5, 1977, Madison voters passed what is now the nation's second-oldest municipal ordinance still on the books decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The binding referendum - which made its way onto the ballot after proponents obtained 8,800 signatures - went beyond an ordinance the City Council adopted just two months earlier by eliminating any penalty for private possession of small amounts of pot.

Minutes after the February law was adopted, "several persons lit up marijuana cigarets in a hallway outside the council chambers," the State Journal wrote at the time.

By the time Madison's referendum passed, five states - Oregon, Colorado, Alaska, Ohio and California - had decriminalized pot. Madison's ordinance also followed a similar measure in Ann Arbor, Mich., the oldest municipal decriminalization law still in existence.

"Relaxed atmosphere"

Madison's ordinance 23.20 allows possession of up to 112 grams of marijuana - just under four ounces, or about 112 joints - or up to 28 grams of cannabis resin, or hashish, in a private place.

It prohibits possession in a public place without a prescription or order from a physician or other practitioner, violations of which are subject to a $109 fine. Selling the drug is also still prohibited.

But Madison police Lt. Sandy Theune, commander of the Dane County Drug Task Force, questions whether it would be appropriate for city police to say, "Hey, just feel free" - even in a private home.

"It's still not 100 percent legal," because of state and federal law, Theune said, but "I think it's pretty well known that there's something of a relaxed atmosphere about marijuana in Madison."

Still, Theune said, police are likely to confiscate marijuana, and, depending on the circumstances, could seek to press charges under state law. "There's not always a black-and-white answer to what will an officer do."

"It depends on who it is . . . on both sides," said Ben Masel, a fixture on the marijuana legalization front for decades.

Discretion ultimately rests with the district attorney's office, which determines whether to file charges under state law. In March, District Attorney Brian Blanchard, citing a lack of resources, said his office will no longer file criminal charges against individuals possessing less than 25 grams of marijuana - just under an ounce, or about 25 joints.

Public use has declined dramatically in Madison in the years since the passage of the city ordinance decriminalizing pot, as federal authorities have continued to crack down on marijuana as part of the "war on drugs," Storck said.

"Back then, Madison was a lot more free about cannabis," he said, adding that it was common to walk into the Memorial Union Rathskeller and find people smoking pot in a corner. "Everybody was doing it."

Anniversary celebration

But not everybody agreed on its effect.

Despite a national task force report in 1972 that recommended decriminalizing pot for personal use, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration has steadfastly opposed relaxing the law.

Such moves, the DEA said, would hurt children and public safety by creating increased dependency and treatment needs and open the door to the use of other drugs, while increasing health risks, delinquent behavior and impaired driving. It also argues that the potency of marijuana today is much greater than it was in the 1970s.

Advocates such as Storck counter that there was potent pot back then, and he likened responsible marijuana use by adults to using alcohol or tobacco.

Storck is hoping the anniversary of Madison's ordinance will renew debate, as well as support for changing state law.

About 50 people attended a 30th anniversary celebration of the ordinance last week at a Williamson Street cafe.

The commemoration was marked not with raucous chants or demonstrations, but with a PowerPoint presentation on events leading up to passage of the law. A band performed "cannabis tunes," including Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Women #12 and 35" with the popular refrain "everybody must get stoned" for the laid-back audience, some of whom stepped outside to smoke pot.

Despite federal prohibitions, other states and municipalities have followed in Madison's footsteps. Twelve states have now decriminalized marijuana for personal use, and 12 states - many of the same ones - have legalized marijuana for medical use.

There are now 29 bills pending in 19 states to decriminalize marijuana or allow its medical use, said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML.

"Today is the busiest period ever in marijuana reform," St. Pierre said.

"Sky has not fallen"

Madison's experience has played a role in the passage of marijuana reform in other cities and states, he said.

"The sky has not fallen," St. Pierre said. "They are still productive people. The children are born with 10 fingers and 10 toes."

A Zogby poll commissioned by NORML in March found that 49 percent of Americans supported removing criminal penalties for the personal use of marijuana by adults, while 48 percent were opposed. The telephone survey of 1,078 likely voters nationwide was conducted Feb. 22-24. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

In Wisconsin, Storck said, "There's some very hopeful things happening."

Last year, then-Rep. Gregg Underheim, R-Oshkosh, introduced a medical marijuana bill after he was diagnosed with cancer, but the bill did not make it out of committee in the Republican-controlled chamber. This year, Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said he plans to join Rep. Frank Boyle, D-Superior, in introducing similar legislation.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said he plans to hold a hearing on medical marijuana in the Democratic-led Senate this fall.

But Rep. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Health and Healthcare Reform, said she will continue her opposition to medical marijuana because of concerns about its safety.

Vukmir, a nurse, said she believes it is better for patients to use medications that have been approved or may soon be available than to have people grow their own marijuana.

"I will refuse to put members through the circus of a hearing for a bill that is not going to go anywhere," Vukmir said. "This is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to legalize marijuana, which is not going to happen on my watch."

Posted by Gary at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)

State Journal: Board members rip marijuana prosecution

Posted by Gary Storck
Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The rebuke of Brian Blanchard by Dane County Supervisors made the Wisconsin State Journal today. Blanchard is quoted as saying the Lankford prosecution is “sensible”. I hope Dane County voters are filing these statements by Blanchard away for the next election, because each time he opens his mouth regarding this case he sounds more and more out of touch with the prevailing community sentiments.

Source: Wisconsin State Journal click here
Pubdate: Tue., Apr 10, 2007
Author: MATTHEW DeFOUR

BOARD MEMBERS RIP MARIJUANA PROSECUTION

Four liberal Dane County Board members are questioning the district attorney's decision to pursue a felony drug charge against a Madison man who declined a deal to plead guilty or no contest to misdemeanor marijuana possession.

In a letter to Democratic District Attorney Brian Blanchard, the board members note the county's top prosecutor recently raised concerns about budget constraints and asked county officials for more staff.

The letter - signed by Progressive Dane Sups. Ashok Kumar, Al Matano, Kyle Richmond and Barbara Vedder - criticizes Blanchard's office for filing a felony charge against a county resident who allegedly "handed a marijuana cigarette to a colleague during a demonstration in favor of relaxation of anti-marijuana law in Downtown Madison."

"The decision to file and pursue such charges calls into question the district attorney's office commitment to conserving its resources for pursuit of serious crimes," the letter states.

The case involves Madison resident Chris Lankford, 31, who was arrested by UW-Madison police at October's Great Marijuana Harvest Fest.

Originally, Lankford was charged with marijuana possession, a misdemeanor, but the case was dropped in February and refiled as delivery of marijuana, a felony, after he declined the plea deal. According to police, Lankford was carrying six more joints.

Blanchard, who said this year that his office would no longer file criminal charges in cases of simple possession because it lacked the resources, defended his office's handling of the Lankford case.

"We have a sensible drug enforcement policy that places a low priority on routine marijuana cases," Blanchard said in an e-mail. "If the four supervisors are asking this office effectively to decriminalize marijuana distribution in Dane County, I'm afraid that is not a reasonable option."blockquote>

Posted by Gary at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2007

Dane County Supervisors rebuke DA Blanchard over Lankford case

Posted by Gary Storck
Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Isthmus carried the following piece about a letter sent to DA Brian Blanchard by four Dane County Supervisors, Ashok Kumar, Al Matano, Kyle Richmond and Barb Vedder, questioning his use of resources in the Chris Lankford case.

It’s good to see some local elected officials speaking up about this. My question is why only four supervisors? Do the remaining 33 think that charging someone with a felony for an alleged minor pot offense based on an arrest unsupported by probable cause is a good thing? Why the deafening silence? County Exec Kathleen Falk must be okay with it too, judging by her lack of protest.

Meanwhile, on April 24 at 10:30 am, in Room 1A of the Dane County Courthouse at 215 S. Hamilton Street in downtown Madison, there will be a preliminary hearing in the Lankford case. Please join in protesting this shameful prosecution on April 24th. Madison NORML will be organizing a picket outside beforehand and as large of a presence in court as we can muster. This is a good day to take off work or school and come down and let it be known that what the DA is doing is wrong. Watch this space for more details, and make plans to come down and stick up for Chris Lankford on April 24th!

From: TheDailyPage.com click here

Pot pols

Four Dane County Board supervisors are challenging District Attorney Brian Blanchard’s decision to press felony charges against a man who passed a joint during a pro-pot rally last fall. In a letter to Blanchard, Supvs. Ashok Kumar, Al Matano, Kyle Richmond and Barb Vedder call the charges “overly punitive” for a “victimless crime.” They add: “Our budgets are stretched thin, and yet your office is prioritizing a questionable use of resources for a questionable prosecution.”

Kumar thinks the charges should be dropped: “Nonviolent drug offenders should not be charged with a felony.”

Blanchard is not surprised by the letter, saying these supervisors have raised concerns about drug law enforcement “fairly regularly” in the past. “I am always respectful of their right to share their views,” he says.


Thursday, March 27, 2007

Brian Blanchard, Dane County District Attorney
Dane County Courthouse, Room 3000
215 S. Hamilton Street
Madison, WI 53703-3297

Mr. Blanchard:

We recently received a letter from you regarding your budget and the need for more staff support in the District Attorney’s Office.

In addition, Suzanne Beaudoin recently appeared before the Executive Committee of the County Board to stress how difficult things are in the Division of Victim and Witness Services of your office, and elsewhere. She emphasized to the committee great challenges to your staff in caseload and

This brings us to another matter of concern to local residents pertaining to the use of District Attorney’s staff time.

Recently the D.A.’s office has filed felony charges against a county resident who handed a marijuana cigarette to a colleague during a demonstration in favor of relaxation of anti-marijuana law in downtown Madison. The decision to file and pursue such charges calls into question the District Attorney’s Office commitment to conserving its resources for pursuit of serious crimes.

First, it appears to signal that the D.A.’s Office is committing itself to overly punitive measures for victimless crime. That in itself is distressing, particularly in a community with a growing population which has, in turn, growing basic law enforcement and public safety needs. Our budgets are stretched thin, and yet your office is prioritizing a questionable use of resources for a questionable prosecution.

Second, this decision to accelerate these charges and prosecute this case looks especially strange in light of your letter and your staff member’s plea to the Board for more resources.

Please let us know the reason for this decision in light of your recent statements to the Board about your budget. Thank you.

Respectfully,

Supervisor Ashok Kumar

Supervisor Al Matano

Supervisor Kyle Richmond

Supervisor Barbara Vedder

Posted by Gary at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

April 03, 2007

Two days to go until Ord. 23.20 Birthday Party at Escape Coffee!

Posted by Gary Storck
Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Just two days to go until Madison NORML’s Madison Ordinance 23.20 Birthday Party at Escape Coffee! Say what? For the uninitiated, Madison Ord. 23.20 is the second oldest municipal marijuana decriminalization ordinance still on the books in the U.S. It is also the oldest medical marijuana law on the books anywhere.

23.20_V4a.jpg

So, it is fitting that the old girl finally gets a party, and the folks who helped make this happen three decades ago definitely deserve some acknowledgement for their efforts way back when cannabis freedom was in the air and legalization seemed just around the corner.

This unique event will take a look back at how, 30 years ago, Madisonians saw a pressing need for change and by the thousands, signed petitions to put the issue before voters, and won at the polls. The testament to that effort is Ord. 23.20, still on the books today providing some common sense around an issue that is too often the subject of hysteria. And although 23.20 has taken some lumps over the years, the recent “change in policy” by the Dane County DA to charge cases involving less than 25 grams as an ordinance violation is evidence that Madison voters were on the right track when they went to the polls 30 years ago and passed 23.20 by a 60/40 margin.

After a discussion, we’ll listen to the mellow sounds of the Special Dank Midnights, presenting some acoustic cannabis tunes, as we enjoy birthday cake and the delicious beverages served up by the good folks at Escape.

So come on down to Escape Coffee on Thursday night, April 5, 2007, at 7pm!

Posted by Gary at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2007

And New Mexico makes 12

Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, April 02, 2007

As expected, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, has signed a bill into law making his state the 12th state with a medical marijuana law.

This means that medical cannabis is now legal in nearly a quarter of U.S. states, and most of the Western states all the way to Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island. Meanwhile, Bob Barr has become a congressional lobbyist for medical marijuana, trying to undo some of the harm he caused in Congress, before Cheryl Miller's tv commercial had him emptying his Longworth House Office Building office where she once had laid in the doorway. Will Mark Souder take his calls? Will John Mica see him? But if Bob Barr can change his mind, there is hope. And, Richardson, a presidential candidate willing to show his support for medical cannabis by first getting lawmakers to reconsider after multiple rejections, and two, to then sign the bill into law, sends a great signal to a field of candidates mostly too timid to talk about patients who can benefit from medical cannabis, while cancer is literally striking all around. Interestingly enough, in newly released fundraising totals, Richardson raised $6 million, placing him in fourth place among Dem candidates.

Medical pot legalized
Source: KRQE News 13 click here

Details of growing, distribution still unknown.

Gov. Bill Richardson signs the bill into law.

SANTA FE -- Seriously ill New Mexicans will soon legally be able to smoke marijuana to help reduce their pain.

Gov. Bill Richardson signed the medical marijuana bill into law this morning.

State lawmakers passed the controversial bill allowing the drug use during the last legislative session.

The Department of Health will administer the program and has until Oct. 1 to have the system in place.

The bill will allow an estimated 50 to 200 New Mexicans to smoke pot to alleviate their suffering.

Officials expect most of the patients who smoke it to have been diagnosed with cancer, HIV or glaucoma.

The bill faced tough opposition from some lawmakers who said allowing the use of medical marijuana would send the message that drug use is OK.

But the governor's signature on the bill today means New Mexico joins a handful of states that allow the use of medical marijuana.

"We're going to be successful in monitoring the use," Richardson said during the signing. "We made sure the bill included specifically define the serious conditions covered,

"The program will be supervised by panel of eight physicians and healthcare officials with expertise on these conditions."

Details about exactly how the program will work are still being explored.

The health department will have to find people to grow the marijuana. Those likely will be businesses experienced in growing herbs for medical purposes.

This new state law doesn't protect medical marijuana patients from prosecution.

According to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, prescribed users can still be arrested for breaking federal law.

Posted by Gary at 03:47 PM | Comments (0)