July 31, 2008
29 years ago today: First legal federal patient Robert Randall testifies at Wisconsin cannabis hearing
Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Look back at Marijuana hearing 29 years ago July 31 highlights long battle for medical use and decriminalization in Wisconsin
29 years ago today, as a 24-year-old college student and medical cannabis patient, I took a bus to Madison to observe a hearing for state medical marijuana legislation as well as a cannabis decriminalization bill.
Bob Randall, medical cannabis hero, 1946-2001, Source: www.drugscience.org.
As a glaucoma patient, I was looking forward to finally meeting fellow glaucoma patient Robert C. Randall of Washington D.C., the first legal federal medical marijuana patient.
It was Randall’s lawsuit that created the Compassionate IND program that still supplies 4 living Americans with medical cannabis today, at a minimum of ten 0.9-gram marijuana cigarettes each day.
Randall, like myself, had stumbled upon marijuana as a means to save his eyesight from the ravages of glaucoma. After smoking cannabis, the “halos” we’d see around streetlights at night would disappear. I recall around the time I was diagnosed with glaucoma as a young child of 8 or so, my mother took me for a walk after dark and asked me to look at the streetlights and if I saw halos. Growing up with the daily threat of blindness was no way to spend a childhood. When, at 17 and a half, a visit to my eye doctor on October 3, 1972 confirmed that marijuana was saving my eyesight and could control my elevated ocular pressures, I was elated. But I was still too scared to tell my old school doctor at the time. And medical marijuana was practically unheard of in 1972, with marijuana recently having been classified a Schedule One drug under the newly passed Controlled Substances Act.
Then, in 1976, I saw a picture of Randall smoking a government joint accompanying an article about how after being arrested for marijuana, he sued the federal government and was provided with 10 pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes each day. I started writing my representatives as well as Randall and his partner Alice O’Leary, who were working with NORML in DC. In an age without the internet, news of medical cannabis was scarce and Bob and Alice’s correspondence gave me hope through many a dark day. When federal authorities tried to cut Randall off, I filed an affidavit with his attorney supporting his case. He sent me the paperwork for the IND program, but I could not find a doctor willing to challenge the federal bureaucracy. The best my doctor would do was to provide a letter, which I blogged about in June click here.
I had been in touch with my Milwaukee Assembly representative, Steve Leopold, and because of fear of prosecution, I asked him to speak on my behalf – I am the person referred to in the article below. While I did not testify, I did provide committee members with a copy of my above referenced doctor's note as well as a letter I wrote stating how cannabis helped with glaucoma and ocular migraines, which included this statement:
"I resent having to violate the law to treat a medical condition, which in my case cannot be completely controlled by conventional therapy."
Bob Randall passed on in 2001. Thanks to federally-supplied medical cannabis, he preserved his vision to the end. I was fortunate enough to see him one more time at the first Patients Out Of Time Conference in Iowa City, IA in 2000. He was selling his excellent book, Marijuana Rx: The Patient's Fight for Medicinal Pot, and I purchased a copy which he autographed.
Robert Randall signs a book for Irv Rosenfeld as Jacki Rickert looks on in 2000 at the first Patients Out of Time Conference. (Photo by Gary Storck)
In 1981, lawmakers passed Therapeutic Cannabis Research Act, with the late Gov. Lee Dreyfus signing it in 1982 click here. But, federal refusal to supply material doomed it and similar laws in more than 32 US states to symbolic status. The people had spoken through their lawmakers, but federal authorities were unbending. Forward progress slowed until 1996, when California voters took it out of the hands of lawmakers and passed Prop 215. Bob Randall helped get most of these earlier therapeutic research acts passed with his tireless advocacy. Keith Stroup, the founder of NORML and director in the 1970’s when Bob Randall first approached NORML about medical use has called him the "father of the medical marijuana movement."
Over the years, Madison has seen visits from other federal IND patients including Elvy Musikka, the sole remaining glaucoma patient, at Harvest Fest in 2003. In addition, Irv Rosenfeld testified before a hearing held by Rep. Gregg Underheim in 2005 and George McMahon was at the Capitol in both 1997 and 2007, for the Journey for Justice conclusion and last November’s informational hearing on medical cannabis held by State Sen. Jon Erpenbach click here.
Source: Wisconsin State Journal
Originally published on August 1, 1979
Author: Richard Eggleston, Associated Press
Copyright © 1979 Wisconsin State Journal
EX-ALDERMAN ASKS LEGAL MARIJUANA FOR MEDICAL USE
One man who suffers from glaucoma and another who has cancer urged Wisconsin lawmakers Tuesday to make marijuana legal for individuals in their predicaments.
"It would be cruel not to pass this legislation for fear that people might misinterpret our intent," attorney Donald Murdoch, a former alderman from Madison's 2nd (near East Side) District, told an Assembly Committee. "Marijuana can help. I know from my own experience."
Murdoch said marijuana alleviated the nausea of cancer chemotherapy and radiation treatments he underwent after cancer was discovered in its early stages in his lymphatic system.
Robert Randall of Washington, D.C., said marijuana proved to be useful in controlling his glaucoma, a disease marked by high pressure in the eyeball that eventually leads to blindness.
Without marijuana, his only recourse was risky surgery, but the government resisted his attempts to obtain marijuana legally, and he was arrested in 1974 for growing his own, Randall related.
Now Randall, who won a lawsuit to obtain legal marijuana, carries the marijuana cigarettes, prescribed for him by an eye doctor, in a brown plastic pill bottle bearing his name and the instruction, "Smoke as directed."
Randall said he smokes 10 of the cigarettes daily and has not suffered any additional deterioration of his sight.
He and Murdoch testified before the Assembly Health and Social Services Committee in behalf of a bill by state Rep. David Clarenbach, D-Madison, that would allow marijuana to be prescribed for glaucoma and cancer sufferers.
State Rep. Stephen Leopold, D-Milwaukee, said he has a constituent who has glaucoma and obtains marijuana illegally for the condition.
"Right now he has to break the law to receive adequate treatment," said Leopold, who added that his constituent was unwilling to testify in behalf of the bill for fear of prosecution.
The bill received generally favorable reception from witnesses, although there was some concern that the federal government would take too long to provide marijuana to help those who need it, and that providing them with street drugs confiscated by police might be risky because the quality of the drug could not be guaranteed.
The only opponent at the hearing was Dr. Philip F. Mussari of Necedah, a psychiatrist, who contended that marijuana had been shown to cause brain damage, a conclusion challenged by other physicians at the hearing.
Opinion was much more divided on another bill sponsored by Clarenbach, to make the penalties for possession of up to three ounces civil rather than criminal, a process commonly known as decriminalization.
Studies purporting to show brain damage from marijuana use have been discredited by later studies using more sophisticated techniques that showed no such effect, said Dr. James Halikas, a Milwaukee psychiatrist who has studied alcoholism and drug abuse for 11 years.
The victims of marijuana use are not nearly as visible as victims of alcohol or tobacco use, and marijuana appears to be the safest of the three drugs, Halikas said.
"Marijuana is relatively safe, relatively innocuous," he said. "The prohibitions against its use are inordinately excessive."
Tamerin Mathieson of Sturtevant, a high school teacher speaking in behalf of the Wisconsin Congress of Parents and Teachers, opposed marijuana decriminalization, asserting that time will prove the PTA right.
"It is our belief that very shortly the horrendous price being paid by marijuana users in brain damage, birth defects, deprivation of sensory stimulation, lung damage and more will become a well-publicized fact," she said. "This would be a very poor time to lower our legal standards."
Whitewater Police Chief Don Simon also testified against the decriminalization proposal in behalf of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association.
He asked the Legislature instead to provide law enforcement with a method of detecting marijuana in the bodies of drivers similar to the Breathalyzer test for alcohol.
Andrew Kane of Milwaukee, speaking for the National Association for Reform of Marijuana Laws, said neither he or his group condone the use of the substance.
He said the civil penalties that would replace criminal sanctions under Clarenbach's bill would still be stiffer than the penalties meted out to most first offenders in Wisconsin today, but would not carry the lifelong stigma of a criminal arrest.
July 28, 2008
Gannett Wisconsin Media: We can prevent these tragedies
Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, July 28, 2008
More from Gannett Media Wisconsin on the Wisconsin alcohol culture. Hopefully, this series has created more awareness of how deep alcohol has permeated into Wisconsin society, and the power of these special interests in maintaining a status quo where alcohol is society's number one designated recreational drug..
Source: greenbaypressgazette.com click here
July 27, 2008
We can prevent these tragedies
The more we learn in Gannett Wisconsin Media’s monthlong State of Drinking series, the more it seems we as a society, as a culture, have been in a collective condition of denial.
We all have Jon Sustacheks among us, who have alienated their families and all but destroyed their bodies. We hear about people like Marc Dybdahl, whose parents elsewhere on this page describe his death by alcohol poisoning on his 21st birthday. In Monday’s paper we’ll hear another familiar story, about a young man who is in prison for the tragedy he caused by getting behind the wheel of a car stone drunk.
And then, we’ll have a few more shots. We’ll celebrate another friend’s 21st birthday. We’ll have a few beers and then drive ourselves home — at least we hope and pray that we’ll get home without something going wrong.
The Badger culture can be summed up: “That won’t happen to me.”
We’re not trying to reinstate Prohibition here. The goal of this series is not to ban alcohol or declare Demon Rum the source of all evil in Wisconsin today.
But we are trying to wake readers up.
Families are being torn apart. Innocents are being injured and killed. Individual lives are trickling away, one drink at a time, or ending suddenly.
And most of us look on, say to ourselves, “That won’t happen to me,” and continue as if nothing happened.
But these things are happening. And most of it is preventable.
A sober friend or family member could drive someone home. People who can could stop after one or two drinks. People who can’t stop can be confronted by their loved ones to seek treatment. Our laws that permit people to accumulate seven, eight, double-digit drunken driving convictions could be tightened. We could open drug courts like the one that is seeing success in Winnebago County.
The one thing we should not do is nothing. The stakes are much too high.
It’s time we came out of denial.
July 27, 2008
38th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival: October 3, 4, 5, 2008
Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, July 27, 2008
History will be made once again the first weekend of October when the 38th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival returns to Madison. Harvest Fest, now far into its foutrth decade, will once again celebrate the harvest and bring the Wisconsin and Midwest cannabis community together again.
Marchers work their way up State St. in 2007 parade.
Here's the lineup so far:
38th annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival
October 3,4 & 5, 2008
Jacki Rickert speaks at the Capitol in 2007.
Sunday October 5
Gather at Library Mall 2 pm
Parade to State Capitol 3:40 pm
Rally and Concert with the Special Dank Midnights at State St. steps of the Capitol 4:20 pm with speakers including Ben Masel, Jacki Rickert, Gary Storck, Gatewood Galbraith (KY) and more .
Saturday October 4
Library Mall from 12-6 pm
Live Music including Baghdad Scuba Review, BUrP, Rev. Eddie Danger and others TBA plus speakers including Ben Masel, Jacki Rickert, Gary Storck, Gatewood Galbraith (KY) and more TBA, vendors, informational tables and displays and food carts.
Library Mall is at State and Lake Streets in downtown Madison adjacent to the UW-Madison Library and campus.
Friday October 3
Cardinal Bar 5-8pm
Kick off Harvest Fest weekend at the 6th annual IMMLY/Madison NORML medical cannabis benefit.
donation includes food and blues/roots music from Mark Shanahan
Cardinal Bar 418 E Wilson St, in downtown Madison 53703.
More info: myspace.com/madisonhempfest or
Event Flier: Download file
For vending info, contact Madison NORML via the contact link on the lower right of the home page of MadisonNORML.org.
Harvest Fest Sponsors include:
July 25, 2008
July 25 marks 6th anniversary of filming of Cheryl Miller's "Why would you do that to me, Bob (Barr)" medical marijuana tv ad
Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, July 25, 2008
On July 24, 2002, Jim & Cheryl Miller and I participated in a press conference in the US Capitol arranged by NORML, supporting Rep. Barney Frank's States' Rights medical marijuana bill, along with Reps. Frank, Dana Rohrabacher, Ron Paul, and Jan Schakowsky, NORML Founder Keith Stroup, Former Reagan aide Lyn Nofziger, Libertarian Party Political Director Ron Crickenberger and others. In the interim, Cheryl Miller, Ron Crickenberger and Lyn Nofziger have all passed on. Here are some photos from that day from NORML: click here
Gary, Jim and Cheryl prepare to head over to the Capitol.
It was an exciting and emotional day, speaking at a medical marijuana press conference inside the U.S. Capitol. NORML took excellent care of us, putting us up in suites near their office.
The next day, before we headed home, Ron Crickenberger came to the hotel and filmed footage for Libertarian TV ads. Ron shot footage of me as part of an ad that included other patients like Angel Raich and Steve Kubby, then moved on to filming an ad he’d written for Cheryl. The ad, titled "Why Would You Do That To Me, Bob (Barr)?", spotlighting Barr’s opposition to medical marijuana, was for use on behalf of Libertarian Carole Ann Rand running in the race for U.S House in Georgia against Republican Bob Barr, who also faced a Republican primary opponent, John Linder, due to redistricting..
The LP’s Film News Archive for 2003 noted the ad was later named "Most Dramatic Political Ad of 2002" by the influential National Journal magazine.
-- Congratulations to the Libertarian Party for creating a political advertisement just named "Most Dramatic Political Ad of 2002" by the influential National Journal magazine. Per the LP News, the 30-second spot, entitled "Why Bob," was broadcast by Libertarian Carole Ann Rand against Republican Bob Barr in the race for U.S House (District 7) in Georgia. The ad--written, directed, and filmed by LP Political Director Ron Crickenberger--was selected from among 1,868 political ads by the National Journal for this top honor. It featured medical marijuana patient Cheryl Miller, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. In the ad, a wan Miller addresses the camera from a hospital bed and says "Bob Barr thinks I should be in jail for using my medicine. Why would you do that to me, Bob?'" The Libertarian Party broadcast the ad about 4,000 times on CNN, TNT, Comedy Central, MSNBC, and other cable networks in the Georgia district. Bob Barr was soundly defeated. The LP took aim at Barr as part of its "Incumbent Killer" strategy, which targeted the worst drug warriors in Congress for defeat. (Source: click here).
Even today as a proclaimed supporter of medical cannabis, Barr has yet to acknowledge it was the power of Cheryl Miller that made him a former Republican congressman and a Libertarian Party candidate for president.
The late Ron Crickenberger films Cheryl as Jim looks on.(Photo by Gary Storck)
The ad that ended Bob Barr's congressional career and set him on the road to being a Libertarian.
VIDEO: WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO ME, BOB (BARR)? " This commercial is a scathing indictment of the most rabid Drug Warrior in Congress," -- former Libertarian Party Political Director Ron Crickenberger. Crickenberger produced this devastating ad for the LP's Carol Ann Rand, who ran against the Georgia Republican in an election in which the newly redistricted Barr lost the GOP primary to John Linder, sending him back to the private sector. (2002, Running Time: 1 minute).
Free Republic: Medical marijuana ads play role in defeat of U.S. Rep. Bob Barr: click here.
July 23, 2008
Cap Times: Business Beat: State ranks high for drinking, not for workforce talent
Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Wisconsin's alcohol culture continues to get press as the Capital Times references Gannett Media's recent articles in this article in their business section about the quality of the state's workforce. Were cannabis regulated like alcohol, state residents wishing to unwind after a hard day on the job would have a non-toxic, much less harmful legal alternative.
Meanwhile, there's a brain drain, as younger people tired of Wisconsin's repressive cannabis laws move to California and other states with more tolerance. As things stand, if you love to drink, Wisconsin is the place to be. The first DUI isn't even a felony. But carry a couple joints too many in some locales, you might find yourself facing criminal charges. That migfht explain why our workforce ranks so low. Repressive cannabis laws have either culled out and driven away many brighter, more creative and productive cannabis consumers or coerced them into switching to the alcohol lifestyle.
Business Beat: State ranks high for drinking, not for workforce talent
Source: Capital Times click here
Mike Ivey — 7/23/2008 8:20 am
Those magazine rankings that pass for investigative journalism these days are always subject to spin.
Cap Times file photo of Madison house party that accompanied article.
For example, Madison's plunge down Money Magazine's "Best Places to Live" from No. 1 mid-sized city in 1996 to No. 89 today has absolutely delighted those who detest the city and its liberal traditions.
See what happens when you coddle the homeless, don't fix potholes and waste time on issues like affordable housing or mass transit, say the critics about Madison's slide.
But one ranking that has received virtually no press attention in the state -- and understandably so -- is the one from CNBC showing Wisconsin falling from No. 33 to No. 37 in the list of "America's Top States for Business."
Texas was ranked No. 1, followed by Virginia, Utah, Idaho and Colorado. Neighbors Iowa and Minnesota were ranked No. 9 and No. 10, respectively.
Sadly, Wisconsin is down there between Maryland and New Mexico and barely ahead of No. 40 Michigan, another struggling rust belt state that's become the poster child for a U.S. economy dependent on an unending supply of cheap oil.
Unlike a lot of magazine rankings that are just guesses from a bunch of editors sitting around a table, the CNBC survey does seem to hold some validity. It scores all 50 states -- using publicly available data -- on 40 different measures of competitiveness.
States are then ranked in 10 broad categories, with input from business groups including the National Association of Manufacturers. Finally, the different categories are weighted depending on how often they are mentioned in a state's own marketing materials.
CNBC lists dairy products, paper manufacturing, beer and tourism as the state's major industries but there is no mention of any "new economy" sectors. Wisconsin is rated No. 22 among states for technology and innovation, a ranking based on patents issued and use of broadband.
Wisconsin actually scores pretty well in some categories, including No. 9 for education, a ranking based on traditional measures of K-12 education including test scores, class size and spending. It ranks No. 13 in transportation based on the availability of air travel and the quality of the roads. The state has dropped to No. 25 in quality of life and No. 22 for cost of living, two areas long pitched as Wisconsin advantages.
But where Wisconsin really lags, according to CNBC, is in the quality of its workers.
Wisconsin is ranked a shocking No. 47 for its workforce, a ranking based on the education level, number of available workers and relative success of state worker training programs in placing participants in jobs.
The low ranking from CNBC in this key category is no doubt also linked to the fact Wisconsin is always touting the quality of its workforce in its marketing materials. (See Business Beat, May 14, 2008.)
Only West Virginia, New York and Hawaii are ranked lower for their workforce. Frankly, if I lived in Hawaii, I wouldn't feel much like working either.
But to really gain some insight into Wisconsin's workforce, one need only look at the recent analysis by Gannett Wisconsin Media of the state's drinking culture -- where boozing goes hand-in-hand with tailgating, snowmobiling, deer hunting and even children's events.
Gannett scored Wisconsin No. 1 in the nation for imbibing, a ranking based on the price and availability of alcohol, its economic importance and its criminal justice, social and health effects.
Following Wisconsin on the list of top drinking states are North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. That's not exactly the kind of company to keep when you're pitching yourself as the next biotech hotbed.
July 21, 2008
Wisconsin may be tops in fetal alcohol syndrome
Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, July 21, 2008
Wisconsin’s Gannett papers continue their excellent expose of Wisconsin’s alcohol culture and the many harms it wreaks on our state and its residents. Special interest groups like the alcohol industry protect their monopoly by supporting marijuana prohibition, and the result is widespread alcohol abuse and symptoms like fetal alcohol syndrome.
Source: Oshkosh Nothwesternclick here
July 21, 2008Wisconsin may have highest risk for infants born with FAS
At five months, the fetus growing inside Kathy Kidd-Wuest was old enough to suck his thumb if so inclined, or get the hiccups.
He was 10 inches long and weighed nearly a pound. Kidd-Wuest, who didn't know she was pregnant, was unaware of him, but he was aware of her. He was beginning to recognize the sound of her heartbeat. He was starting to recognize her voice too.
He even could hear sounds from the world outside – his mother's world.
The sounds that filled the Country Corners bar that night were the jangling chords of country songs. That was where Kidd-Wuest, 24, and her husband, Phil, had chosen to spend their night out. The Madison couple had left their 4-year-old daughter at home with a baby sitter.
Kidd-Wuest felt herself relaxing after a long week at work.
She finished her first drink and ordered another. Then another. Kidd-Wuest had five drinks in all. They cost $2.50 a pop. That seemed a bargain. But 18 years later, Kidd-Wuest still is paying the price for drinking during the first five months of her pregnancy.
So is her son, now 18, who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome.
The riskiest state
Each year as many as 200 Wisconsin newborns show the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure, according to the University of Wisconsin's Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Treatment Outreach Project.
Dr. Georgiana Wilton, an associate scientist at the University of Wisconsin Department of Family Medicine in Madison, believes it's likely the state leads the nation in that category, though such data is not kept by every state.
Prenatal alcohol exposure is a leading cause of mental retardation and learning disabilities nationwide. By that standard, Wisconsin babies are at greatest risk.
Wisconsin leads the nation in reported drinking among women of childbearing age. The state has the highest prevalence of frequent alcohol consumption among women ages 18 to 44, according to a 2006 risk-factor survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
How much drinking is too much remains unclear and likely varies from one woman to another.What is known is that the more a woman drinks, the greater the chance problems will develop.
"Typically the research has shown most babies with FAS were born to moms who drank a lot of alcohol, and at an alcoholic level," Wilton said. "I have not worked with a woman who had one drink and caused FAS."
Effects of drinking
A pregnant woman provides the fetus vital nutrients, oxygen, antibodies and hormones through the placenta. The placenta filters out some substances that might harm the fetus.
Alcohol is not one of those. Instead, it acts as a teratogen. The word is derived from the Greek word for monster, "tera." It refers to any agent causing the malformation of a fetus. Alcohol is such an agent. A fetus absorbs every drop of an alcoholic beverage consumed by its mother and at the same level of concentration. But a fetus's liver is not mature enough to detoxify alcohol.
Exposure to alcohol puts a fetus at risk of a cluster of preventable developmental problems known collectively as fetal alcohol syndrome or the related fetal alcohol spectrum disorders — a term describing the range of effects that can occur in any individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy.
Brain damage, facial deformities, growth deficits, heart, liver and kidney defects characterize fetal alcohol syndrome, as do difficulties with vision, hearing, learning, attention, memory and problem solving.
An individual with fetal alcohol syndrome can incur a lifetime health cost of more than $860,000, although the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome says costs can be as high as $4.2 million. It costs the U.S. $5.4 billion annually in direct and indirect costs. Direct costs are estimated at $3.9 billion annually, which includes healthcare costs as well as costs associated with social services and incarceration.
Sixty percent of individuals with FASD will end up in an institution (mental health facility or prison). And it is estimated that almost 70 percent of the children in foster care are affected by prenatal alcohol exposure in varying degrees.
As long as doctors still are unsure of how much alcohol a pregnant woman has to drink to place her child at risk for FASD, the best public health message is abstinence.
"There's no safe time, no safe amount, no safe alcohol," Wilton said.
By the time Justin was 10, he was diagnosed with severe attention deficit disorder, mild to moderate mental retardation, hemi-cerebral palsy on the left side of his body, static encephalopathy and lordosis (curvature of the lower spine), which eventually will push up on his rib cage, lungs and chest to the point respiratory and/or cardiac failure may occur.
Today, Justin stands 5 feet 7 and weighs 199 pounds. He has difficulty discerning proper food serving amounts, and needs supervision to operate appliances. Until a year and half ago he couldn't control his bodily functions. He has no friends.
"It's exhausting," Kidd-Wuest said. "None of us live in a normal household. This is not a daily thing, it's a forever thing."
July 20, 2008
La Crosse County DA clears second trucker of transporting a half-ton of cannabis
Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, July 20, 2008
The La Crosse district attorney has decided not to press charges against a second driver of a truck containing a half-ton of cannabis. The first driver was acquitted by a La Crosse County jury in May.
Source: La Crosse Tribune click here
Thursday, July 17, 2008
By Dan SpringerSecond trucker cleared in half-ton pot case
SECOND TRUCKER CLEARED IN HALF-TON POT CASE
Criminal charges have been dropped against a California truck driver who had nearly one-half ton of marijuana in his trailer at an interstate weigh station in November near West Salem, Wis.
Gurmit Singh, 38, and Marco Corzo, 54, both of Palmdale, Calif., have both been cleared of being party to the crime of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.
According to court records, Singh pulled into the closed weigh station Nov. 20 and sought help from a trooper, saying he feared Corzo.
Singh told the trooper that Corzo had a gun and drugs and had threatened Singh’s life.
Troopers searched Singh’s trailer and found the men were hauling almost 1,000 pounds of marijuana along with three crates of tomatoes. Both men claim they didn’t know the truck contained marijuana.
In May, a La Crosse County jury found Corzo not guilty after a two-day trial. Singh was slated to stand trial this month.
On Tuesday, La Crosse County Assistant District Attorney Brian Barton dropped the charges against Singh, saying he does not think he could prove Singh was guilty.
In the motion, Barton said he reached that conclusion after reviewing the case, considering Corzo’s outcome and additional evidence from Singh’s attorney, James Kroner.
Barton could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Kroner would not elaborate on the evidence, saying he does not discuss private communications he has with other attorneys.
“I’m pleased we were able to get a good result for Mr. Singh,” Kroner said. “I know that when Mr. Singh was here (Tuesday) and learned that the case was dismissed, he was very pleased.”
July 16, 2008
Vernon County Wisconsin Broadcaster: Marijuana’s tangled roots run through society
Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
In response to a recent bust of an indoor cannabis garden in Viroqua, Matt Johnson, editor the Vernon County Broadcaster, has written this lengthy look into cannabis in Wisconsin, including some comments from yours truly.
Source: Vernon County Broadcaster click here
Published: Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Author: Matt Johnson
MARIJUANA’S TANGLED ROOTS RUN THROUGH SOCIETYMarijuana, known as "pot" or "weed" among other names, is a Schedule 1 narcotic according to the Controlled Substances Act. It has a long history of use and it's place in society remains largely unchanged in the last 30 years -- although its manufacture, distribution and price have changed. This marijuana was confiscated in a Viroqua Police Department search several weeks ago. (Matt Johnson photo)
Fireworks glowed in the sky on a beautiful Fourth of July weekend evening at a gathering of friends in the hills and valleys of the Driftless Region.
People sat in lawn chairs talking. Some drank beer or mixed drinks -- some water or soda. There was plenty of food. Children played and roasted marshmallows.
On occasion, a small group of adults, young and old, would move away from others at the campfire and stand in a circle under a tree. A marijuana joint was lit, passed from person-to-person and finished. Then the people went back to the party.
Marijuana has been an illegal drug in the United States since the “1937 Marihuana Tax Act” was passed, which made possession or transfer of it illegal. In Wisconsin, there are numerous criminal repercussions for anything from simple possession of marijuana to its distribution.
The recent arrest of a Viroqua man on a charge of manufacturing marijuana has led to public discussion regarding the legal status of marijuana. While not commenting on that case, opinions vary widely on how marijuana should be treated in society.
The criminal status, judicial ramifications and social stigma attached to marijuana have been molded over nearly a century of battles between different interests. Although the United States has spent billions of dollars to eradicate marijuana, it is just about as easy to obtain today as it was when President Ronald Reagan launched America’s “War on Drugs” in 1982.
An annual study done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the federal government in 2007 found that 31 percent of high school seniors surveyed said they had smoked marijuana. The study has shown that marijuana use is falling, but still, about 80 million Americans have smoked marijuana.
What is Marijuana?
Marijuana, known in slang simply as "pot" or "weed," is a psychoactive product of the plant Cannabis sativa.
The herbal form of the drug consists of dried mature flowers, or "buds," and leaves of female plants.
Marijuana can be smoked or ingested in food or drink. Upon using marijuana, people experience distorted perception/vision, euphoric feelings and other effects. Marijuana use is often called "getting high" or “getting stoned.” The University of Massachusetts describes marijuana's peak effect lasting the first two hours of use and fading after about four hours.
Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most psychoactive property. THC is found in the plant's resin.
Historic records dating back as to 2737 BC show marijuana was used by people for a number of reasons, according to the 2008 Columbia University Encyclopedia.
Marijuana in Vernon County
In the 1940s and 1950s, there was a field of hemp virtually around every country corner in Vernon County.
Wisconsin farmers were encouraged to grow fields of hemp during World War II to provide raw materials for rope. The practice was promoted by the United States government, which had a movie made titled "Hemp for Victory."
Some of these fields still exist.
“Every once in a while we come across a large field of wild hemp,” Vernon County UW-Extension Agent Tim Rehbein said. “It’s commonly referred to as ‘ditch weed’ and it’s very low in THC."
In fact, just 15 years ago, the idea of growing hemp in Vernon County was briefly considered as an alternate crop to tobacco. Rehbein said the idea was short-lived as the federal government wouldn’t change industrial hemp’s definition, keeping it classified the same way as high-yield marijuana, which is a Schedule 1 drug, similar to that of LSD and heroin, according to the Controlled Substances Act.
“The difference is you have to look at industrial hemp as being similar to non-alcoholic beer to the user,” Rehbein said. “The THC content is so low in industrial hemp that you can’t consume enough of it to get ‘high.’ It would be like trying to drink non-alcoholic beer, which has just a trace of alcohol, to get intoxicated."
Rehbein said those growing illegal marijuana do not want to grow it near wild hemp, because cross-pollination leads to lower yields of THC.
Vernon County’s ridges and valleys provide an almost ideal landscape for growing illegal marijuana, Vernon County Sheriff Gene Cary said.
“Our terrain -- woods, large agricultural operations -- all give someone the ability to grow marijuana easier than if they lived in a more populated area,” Cary said. “We have a lot of public area, such as the Kickapoo Valley Reserve and county parks. In the past, people used to grow marijuana in these areas because there was no property owner and no person to trace the marijuana back to.”
However, as times changed, so has the manufacture of marijuana and its distribution. Cary said more indoor marijuana growing operations exist than ever before and his department has uncovered some of the most elaborate in the state.
“We’ve had a lot of seizures of marijuana, have confiscated thousands and thousands of dollars in cash and have confiscated hundreds of thousands of dollars in property and vehicles all related to the drug trade,” Cary said. “Today we don’t have so many people growing it, but we have people, who know some people, who know some people, from who they can get their nickel or dime bag of marijuana.”
Marijuana and law enforcement
A car with six people in it was pulled over in Viroqua last Thursday night by an officer of the Viroqua Police Department.
The department’s drug-search dog, or K-9 officer, “Lil’ Bud,” searched the car and indicated the vehicle contained drugs. A further search led an officer to uncover approximately 15 grams, or more than ½ ounce, of marijuana.
Viroqua Police Chief Mark Rahr said his department averages about one marijuana arrest per week on any of a litany of charges from possession of marijuana paraphernalia to distribution of marijuana. He said that “Lil’ Bud’s” presence on the force in the last year has led to an increase in marijuana arrests.
Most of the charges are citations for possession of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia.
“We know there’s marijuana use in the community,” Rahr said. “It’s out there. We have arrested people for driving while intoxicated, tested their blood, and found they were under the influence of THC. Impaired driving is a problem.”
Both Rahr and Cary said that it’s rare when any suspect openly says that they’re under the influence of a drug.
“I can’t think of one time when we’ve had someone definitively say,'Yes, I was high on marijuana when I committed that crime,'” Rahr said.
However, both have seen circumstances when marijuana use has been a factor in crimes. Cary said the Vernon County Jail houses inmates from other counties who were caught in the drug trade dealing or distributing drugs from Chicago to Minneapolis. He said drug use was a factor in getting them incarcerated. Rahr said his department has arrested people under the influence of marijuana during drug-related offenses. He also believes marijuana use may have been a factor in violent crimes, such as armed robbery.
Cary said he’s seen many changes in marijuana culture.
In the late 1960s, there was a tremendous surge in the use of the marijuana and it was used more openly. In the next two decades, use became more private, but more of it was planted in public places and distributed locally for sale. In the 1990s to today, supply has become an "underground" operation and sophisticated.
“I don’t know if there’s been a peak of marijuana use in my career,” Cary said. “What we’ve seen is there has been an increase in the amount of arrests for other drugs, such as cocaine and Ecstasy, which we didn’t have before.
Marijuana is a gateway to finding harder drugs, Cary said.
“Everybody who smokes marijuana feels comfortable around other people who smoke dope,” Cary said. “They talk to each other and it’s a way to get them in touch with getting other drugs.”
Cary and Rahr both said it’s not their job to debate the legality of marijuana.
“We enforce the law and marijuana is illegal, so we’re going to arrest people who grow it and use it,” Cary said. “…And as long as the state of Wisconsin says it’s that way, that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Cary said that one of the most difficult issues law officers encounter when dealing with enforcing marijuana laws is that people don’t consider it harmful.
“What’s frustrating is that kids hear there’s nothing wrong with smoking marijuana,” Cary said. “There is something wrong with smoking marijuana. It’s illegal.”
Marijuana and the judicial system
The price of scrap metal is currently at a historic high level. Vernon County District Attorney Tim Gaskell said he’s dealing with more theft and burglary cases regarding scrap metal than ever before in his six years as a prosecutor.
“Marijuana specifically plays a bigger role in these cases,” Gaskell said, because those stealing the metal are doing it to get money to purchase marijuana and other drugs.
Aside from marijuana driving thefts and burglaries, Gaskell said his office’s dealings with marijuana cases have basically remained steady.
Not counting marijuana cases that were handled under local ordinances, such as those for possession of paraphernalia, the Vernon County District Attorney’s office prosecuted 10 crimes related to marijuana in 2006 and 14 crimes related to marijuana in 2007.
Gaskell said the amount of work he puts into the average marijuana case isn’t excessive, because the cases, by their nature, are usually easy to prosecute.
“We’re dealing with good arrests where the defendant was found with paraphernalia on them or they were in possession of marijuana,” Gaskell said. “Unless it’s a larger investigation where a lot of time went into it, and larger amounts are found, it’s not difficult.”
Wisconsin state law classifies first-time possession of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia as misdemeanor crimes punishable by county jail time and fines. Subsequent arrests for marijuana possession or any charges related to manufacturing or distributing marijuana are felonies punishable with state prison sentences and fines.
Gaskell said the typical marijuana arrest in Vernon County results in a paraphernalia or possession charge stemming from a traffic stop.
“Then there are the cases where officers go to investigate a domestic (dispute) and they go in the house and find paraphernalia,” Gaskell said. “That leads to questioning and then they find a bag of dope.”
Gaskell said in regard to domestic abuse calls “alcohol plays a much bigger factor” in initiating them.
Vernon County Circuit Court Judge Michael Rosborough said there are fewer cases of marijuana manufacturing in Vernon County than there were when he first took the bench 22 years ago.
“We almost used to gear up in the fall for law enforcement coming in with their investigations and requests for search warrants,” Rosborough said. “…That wasn’t a huge part of the case load, but (its decline) is noteworthy.”
Rosborough echoed the comments of those who are in law enforcement, saying marijuana’s production today has become more sophisticated. He said that is due to law enforcement agencies effectively finding outdoor marijuana growing operations.
Any use of marijuana should be referred to as “abuse,” Rosborough said, because using marijuana is illegal.
Investigations into marijuana growing operations, sometimes lasting months or years, don’t always end with those on the top tier of the operation being prosecuted, Rosborough said. Instead, those involved in distribution may be the bulk of those prosecuted.
Rosborough said forming an opinion on how marijuana abuse itself leads to other criminal activity is difficult.
“Are there a substantial number of cases where marijuana use is a factor in someone’s criminality? I don’t think so,” Rosborough said. “I think it’s a symptom of other things going on in the lives of people.”
Marijuana incarceration and costs
As of last Friday, Wisconsin had 22,829 adults in state prisons, John Dipko, of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections said. The cost to house an inmate was $27,300 per year in 2007, according to the DOC.
Not all inmates in the prison population today will be there for the entire span of any given year. With that understood, incarcerating all of the adults currently in prison for an entire year would cost $623 million.
The state doesn’t exactly have information readily available saying how many of its adult prisoners are incarcerated on marijuana charges. This is because the inmate might have other charges in addition to marijuana charges, Dipko said.
According to the Wisconsin Sentencing Commission’s semi-annual report from March 2007 titled “Sentencing in Wisconsin: Drug Trafficking,” there were more than 2,200 Class I (less than 200 grams of marijuana) and 465 Class H (between 200-1,000 grams of marijuana) felony convictions between January 2003 and October of 2006. It’s difficult to pin down how many more severe felony convictions (Class E-G) during that time were made for marijuana. That’s because the report compiles those cases with felony cases related to other drugs in the same felony class. The total number of drug related cases for those convicted of felonies in Classes E-G in the time period considered in the report was 5,170.
On a national level, in 2005, Jon Gettman, leader of the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis, estimated that national criminal justice expenditures for enforcing marijuana laws is $7.6 billion per year. That’s broken down into $3.7 billion being allocated to police, $853 million to the courts, and $3.1 billion to corrections. Gettman’s estimates were included in a study done for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
A report commissioned by Taxpayers for Common Sense and written by visiting Harvard University economist Dr. Jeffrey Miron found that efforts to reduce marijuana use and supply cost federal taxpayers more than $3.67 billion in in 2004.
A marijuana user's story
"Jack," a 42-year-old professional with master’s degree, has been a daily marijuana user for the past 20 years.
He has lived a good deal of his adult life in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin, but now lives in a nearby metropolitan area. He's in a long-term relationship, but has no children.
"I don't think (marijuana) has had an affect on my life," he said speaking on the condition of anonymity. "The biggest crime you hear about is people who smoke pot are lazy or unmotivated. I don't consider myself either of those things.
"I've killed a lot of hours just hanging out with people smoking, but that's the nature of the beast," he said. "It's a social phenomenon. I've found that most smokers are outgoing people who enjoy the company of others."
Jack said he didn't start smoking marijuana until his sophomore year at a small Wisconsin college. He smoked with friends living in the dorms. Since starting he's never gone more than two months without marijuana.
Only once did he have a brush with the law due to marijuana. In the mid-1990s, he drove a man to Madison to buy some marijuana and they were pulled over for speeding. The officer could smell marijuana in the car. Jack was driving. His friend had two ¼-ounce bags of marijuana and was arrested and later fined. Jack was told not to drive, but was free to go.
Jack has lived in a number of different places and worked in a number of different jobs.
"You put me in any position and in two months I'll know who smokes and where I can buy some safely," he said. "People may have the impression that marijuana is only used by those on the bottom rung of society. I'm telling you that there are users everywhere -- bank administrators, teachers, business people, doctors -- everywhere."
Jack spends about $300 each month on marijuana. He said marijuana is more readily available to him now than ever before. He said he believes his dealer supplies marijuana to eight people or less.
Jack said the only thing that's made him contemplate quitting is the escalating price of marijuana. He said he purchases marijuana for about $120 per ¼ ounce and he smokes about a ½ ounce a month. He usually smokes it in joint form. He said 12 years ago he could buy ¼ ounce of marijuana for $45.
"Frankly, I can't believe I've used it as long as I have," he said. "It's been too easy to get."
He said the trend over the past 20 years is that marijuana is more expensive and more potent.
"That's what the War on Drugs has done," Jack said. "It's more expensive probably because it's more difficult to keep hidden, but because its growth is more controlled it's a lot better than when I started smoking it."
Jack said he's experienced paranoia using marijuana, but has had no other side effects. He said when he's contemplative after smoking marijuana, he often thinks about pot's place in society.
"I think its roots go a lot deeper than we'd care to admit," Jack said. "I think about people like Carl Sagan, who was a world-renowned astronomer, who advised NASA and did a lot for explaining astronomy to the common man.
"People didn't know until after he died that he used marijuana all the time," Jack continued. "Here's one of the most brilliant astronomers of our day and he's also one of the biggest pot smokers around. By its nature it lends itself to secrecy, but who else is using it? That's the real story. In a lot of ways people have a double life with it."
Jack said he's glad he waited until he was in college to start smoking marijuana.
"People who aren't adults shouldn't smoke marijuana," he said. "I think that's wrong and I wouldn't want children smoking pot. I don't want be be a hypocrite, but people need to have the wisdom and the knowledge to deal with it."
Jack said the legal use of alcohol presents a greater danger to society than marijuana.
"When I smoke marijuana, the only thing that I present a danger to is that Doritos bag on the table," Jack said with a laugh. "When you look at how out-of-control and violent people get while drinking, pot is harmless by comparison."
Gary Storck, 53, Madison, was born with glaucoma. Smoking marijuana decrease-ed the pressure on his eyes and relieved pain he suffered from other health conditions, he said.
Glaucoma is a disease that slowly destroys the optic nerve and causes a buildup of pressure inside the eye. In 1972, Storck began smoking marijuana and discovered at the doctor's office that the pressure inside his eyes had decreased. He smokes marijuana daily and said it's the only thing that helps him normally function.
"If I had to take conventional drugs to treat my health problems I wouldn't be able to coherently talk to you today," Storck said. "I have serious and chronic health conditions and cannabis allows me to manage the symptoms."
Storck currently is serving as the Director of Madison's chapter of NORML. He also is an advocate for medical marijuana through the group, which he co-founded in 2000, called "Is My Medicine Legal Yet."
Storck said that marijuana's classification as an illegal drug has prevented untold numbers of people from being able to use it as medicine.
A University of Mass-achusetts report says that marijuana, or cannabis, can create appetite stimulation for AIDS and cancer patients; nausea control for cancer patients; muscle relaxation for multiple sclerosis patients; pain relief; and reduction of fluid pressure in eyes for glaucoma patients.
"The big white elephant in the room when it comes to marijuana being illegal is that it has medical benefits that are proven," Storck said.
As for using marijuana recreationally, Storck said he supports the United States regulating marijuana using the same model practiced in the Netherlands. That country regulates marijuana, taxes it, and allows for the sale of small quantities of it in coffee houses. People can use it at those places or take it home.
He said that the only problem with marijuana in the United States is that there is a strict prohibition of it.
"In my opinion that's hard to defend," Storck said. "Every time you bust somebody for pot, some of that was going to be used medicinally. Some people growing marijuana are simply providing a service.
"The government knows it's not dangerous and its abuse potential is low...," Storck continued. "Cannabis users are law abiding citizens who choose a different way to unwind after work."
The work done in the 12 states that have decriminalized marijuana or allowed medical marijuana's use has led to additional ways it can be administered, including through vaporization without combustion.
Storck said alcohol is a "scourge" on society and alcohol and tobacco are considerably more harmful to the public at large.
Problems with marijuana
Just last week, Australian researchers released a study saying long-term heavy use of marijuana may cause two important brain structures to shrink.
The study, published in the American Medical Association's journal Archives of General Psychiatry, found that heavy cannabis users, smoking five joints a day for 20 years, earned lower scores than the nonusers in tests trying to recall a list of 15 words.
"These findings challenge the widespread perception of cannabis as having limited or no harmful effects on (the) brain and behavior," said Murat Yucel of ORYGEN Research Center and the University of Melbourne, who led the study.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Marijuana hinders the user's short-term memory and makes some tasks difficult. With the use of more potent varieties of marijuana, even simple tasks can be difficult.
According to the Drug Free America Foundation, marijuana's most dangerous side effect is that its use heightens the probability that the user will try other drugs.
"Long-term studies of students who use drugs show that very few young people use other illegal drugs without first trying marijuana," according to the Drug Free American Foundation. "Not everyone who uses marijuana will move on to other drugs, but using marijuana sometimes lowers inhibitions about drug use and exposes users to a culture that encourages experimentation and use of other drugs. Marijuana users are two to five times more likely to go on to use harder drugs."
There is a difficulty in comparing the benefits of marijuana to its negative effects. This is because there is a considerable amount of information available to counter arguments made by those who are for the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana and those who want it to remain illegal.
There's no question that long-term marijuana abuse can create addiction, a University of Wisconsin, University Health Services report determined in 2005.
The report, co-written by Michael M. Miller, M.D., the Medical Director of the NewStart Alcohol/Drug Treatment Program at Meriter Hospital in Madison, and Brian Glueck of University Health Services, said that marijuana users can build up a tolerance to THC and experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it.
"…Withdrawal definitely occurs in some users," according to the report. "The effects of this withdrawal are generally the opposite of the effects of intoxication: anxiety and insomnia instead of relaxation; loss of appetite rather than hunger; excessive salivation instead of dry mouth; and also decreased pulse, irritability, and sometimes tremors."
The report said there is a distinction between marijuana abuse and marijuana addiction.
"Abuse, which involves continued use despite legal, occupational, or academic problems (e.g., recurrent use after an arrest for impaired driving, or after a drug-related work suspension) is more common," according to the report. "Despite being considered less severe than addiction, cannabis abuse nevertheless creates distress for loved ones and other interested parties, and by definition involves an observable downturn in the user's performance of some important life task."
Higher THC content in marijuana creates a more significant risk that a regular user will become an addict, according to the report.
July 15, 2008
Bad dancing in Sheboygan leads to pot arrest
Posted by Gary Storck
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
In a case reminiscent of the Seinfeld episode about Elaine’s odd dancing, “strange dancing” at Sheboygan’s Hispanic Fest has led to the filing of criminal charges against an 18 year old man.
The man was charged with two misdemeanor counts for possession of 2.6 grams of cannabis and a glass pipe. Wisconsin does not have a statewide marijuana decriminalization law, but most of the state’s most populous counties and many municipalities have adopted local ordinances where possession of amounts under 25 grams of cannabis, or less in some locales, or of paraphernalia, leads to the filing of civil charges – a ticket, rather than a criminal record.
In early 2007 in Dane County, the DA’s office established a threshold of charging all cases involving paraphernalia or under 25 grams of cannabis as a civil infraction, “Text of Dane County DA memo on new pot policy” click here.
Why are Sheboygan authorities wasting their time on this case? Was his dancing that bad?
Source: Associated Press
TUESDAY, July 15, 2008, 11:18 a.m.
Man's strange dancing leads to arrestSheboygan - A teenager whose strange dancing at a Sheboygan festival caught the attention of authorities is now facing drug charges.
A criminal complaint says a security officer at Hispanic Fest on Saturday alerted a patrolling police officer about a man who was dancing strangely. The security officer thought the man was either drunk or high on drugs.
The complaint says the police officer noted the man smelled strongly of marijuana, then searched him and found 2.6 grams of marijuana and a glass pipe.
July 14, 2008
Gannett Wisconsin Media details power of WI Tavern League
Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, July 14, 2008
Gannett Wisconsin Media has been looking into the effects of Wisconsin's alcohol culture. Here is their report on the Tavern League, a group that benefits from marijuana prohibition, as cannabis would compete with their monopoly.
July 14, 2008
Tavern League a force to be reckoned with
Lobby group plays key role in state's culture of alcohol
Source: Ben Jones, Gannett Wisconsin Media click here.MADISON — In the bars and restaurants of most Wisconsin cities, the influence of the state's tavern league hangs in the air.
Wisconsin, unlike every state that surrounds it, allows smoking in its taverns — a testament to the clout of the Wisconsin Tavern League, one of the most powerful special-interest groups in the state.
"They are able to stop things that they don't like and they are able to get much of what they want," said Mike McCabe, executive director of the government watchdog group the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. "I don't think there's any interest group that bats 1000, but their batting average is pretty high.
"That's a testimony to the industry's influence."
It's also testimony to the important place that alcohol occupies in Wisconsin culture, which is more infused by booze than that of any other state, according to rankings by Gannett Wisconsin Media.
With 5,000 members, paid lobbyists, and an annual budget of more than $1 million, the league boasts that it's the largest organization of its kind in the country. It sets the course for scores of legislative proposals in the state Capitol.
In short, it has the power to pass or stop legislation.
"We have a voice, and we're proud of that voice," said Rob Swearingen, the league's president. "Fortunately, a lot of legislators are paying attention."
A review of public records shows the tavern league to be very active. According to records from the state Government Accountability Board, the league lobbied the state Legislature on 47 different bills and proposals last legislative session. The league spent 654 hours and $83,000 on the effort.
The league focused its lobbying effort on 11 measures, including a statewide smoking ban, records show.
"Sometimes we get the negative connotation, but we are looking out for our members," Swearingen said.
"You don't drive a car without insurance and you sure as hell wouldn't run a tavern without the Tavern League behind you."
During the last legislative session, the league was successful in passing or blocking five of 11 legislative proposals it actively lobbied.
McCabe said it's not the tavern league alone that wields influence in the industry.
"It's the industry as a whole," McCabe said. "It's not just the taverns, but the people that make the product, distribute the product and ultimately sell the product."
"They are all part of this industry that has enormous influence in Wisconsin. It's a formidable industry when you put all the pieces together."
According to data collected by the Democracy Campaign and state records:
# 118 members, or nearly 90 percent of the 132-member state Legislature have received campaign contributions from people affiliated with the alcohol industry.
# Contributions from the alcohol industry to state lawmakers and campaign contributions totaled nearly $1 million.
# Both major parties collected thousands in contributions. Republicans, who have held more seats in the state Legislature over the last five years, received $634,000 from the industry. Democrats received about $360,000.
# Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, has received more than $383,000 from the industry.
# In the last legislative session, the five lawmakers who received the most in alcohol contributions took no votes that ran against the Tavern League's key stances on legislation.
Swearingen said the league is the "the watchdog for the industry."
He said that, for some reason, people often perceive the league as a sort of powerful "evil empire." That's not accurate, he said.
"I'm not quite sure how that got started or where it comes from, but the fact of the matter is the tavern league is made up of about 5,000 small independent (businesses,) and a lot of them are mom and pop taverns," Swearingen said.
"In some ways, I guess we are flattered that we are considered this great and powerful league, but the fact of the matter is it's the tavern right down you're street."
The league, which is based in Madison, works against legislation that would negatively affect state taverns. Swearingen said sometimes lawmakers push legislation without considering the effect on taverns, an industry he says is key to the state's economy.
"We're one of the largest employers as a whole for the state of Wisconsin," he said. "It's huge and the dollars are huge."
Ray Bruch, a tavern owner from Langlade County and a member of the league's state board, said the league is a firewall for taverns.
"That's why we are an organization; to be able to sell legal products, to be able to allow legal adults into our establishments … we're not asking for more. We're trying to keep our operations level."
Kari Kinnard, state executive director of Wisconsin MADD, has often lobbied on the other side of legislation than the league.
In many cases, the league has been active against drunken driving, and it has supported bills that combat the issue.
For example, the league sponsors a "Drink Responsibly Drive Responsibly" media campaign, and the slogan is featured prominently on its Web site.
But Kinnard said it's uncommon for the league to be working in the same direction on legislation as MADD. She said the group tends to back legislation targeting multiple offenders and high BAC offenders.
She said the league's view differs from MADD on laws involving low BAC or first- or second-time offenders. She said targeting these offenders is key to dealing with the problem of drunken driving.
Kinnard said it's difficult to match the league's clout in the Capitol.
"The tavern league offers a lot of money as their persuasion," she said. "The only thing we have to offer is victim stories. Unfortunately money wins over lives saved."
The league's clout was put to the test this year as health advocates and lawmakers launched the strongest effort to date to pass a smoking ban. The pro-ban movement, backed by radio ads and volunteer activists, has support among some key lawmakers and Doyle.
The tavern league flexed its muscle and brought about 1,000 members and supports to Madison to lobby lawmakers not to pass the ban.
The league was the only major group working to defeat the ban. Its success frustrated Rep. Steve Wieckert, R-Appleton, who authored smoking ban legislation.
"The Tavern League is the only group that's really trying to stop this and we have so many groups supporting this now, which is frustrating," Wieckert said. "The Cancer Society, the heart and lung associations the Medical Society, all of these good groups are on my side and yet we can't seem to overcome the hurdle of the Tavern League.
Despite backing from numerous health and trade organizations, the ban stalled in the Legislature before the main session ended in March.
McCabe said most opinion polls show that a majority of people in Wisconsin support a statewide smoking ban.
"And yet it was blocked," he said. "Lawmakers were more afraid of one special interest group than the voters as a whole. They were willing to take the risk of angering the solid majority of citizens that want smoking in public places banned. They weren't willing to risk alienating the industry."
In March, about 1,000 Tavern League members and supporters packed into a downtown Madison hotel for an annual legislative day that culminated with an evening reception. The league invited lawmakers to the reception, which was closed to the media.
Three years ago, the league held a similar event, drawing 100 state officials, including 48 state lawmakers. One lawmaker, state Sen. Russ Decker, D-Weston, was arrested for drunken driving later that night.
Later, a plea deal resulted in the OWI charge's being dropped.
Decker said he is not proud of the arrest, but he added that "politicians make the same mistakes as everyone else."
His experience that night did not affect the way he approaches alcohol-related legislation, he said.
Decker said the Tavern League represents a part of Wisconsin culture, and he points to its sponsorship of bowling leagues and the Safe Ride Home program as positive influences in the state.
"I've always been supportive of them," Decker said, referring to the league. "They're small-business people in our communities. People go there (to taverns) for Friday night fish fries or to play softball, play volleyball. ... They're our neighbors. They're part of our communities."
The state Ethics Board later fined the League for not charging lawmakers the full cost of the event, a violation of state lobbying laws. Lawmakers paid $5 to attend the reception, which included shrimp and all the beer they could drink. The board determined the actual cost of the reception worked out to about $30 a person, and it fined the League $2,500.
But the League's annual legislative days continued.
This year, Decker was a featured speaker.
July 12, 2008
November Michigan vote on medical marijuana raises hopes for Wisconsin patients
Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, July 12, 2008
This November, voters in Michigan will decide whether to legalize medical marijuana. MI activists collected over 500,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot. At the state level, medical cannabis initiatives have only lost once. The sole defeat was a narrow loss in South Dakota in 2006, where the political situation is much different than in Michigan.
If the Michigan initiative passes, Michigan patients would be allowed to legally possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana or grow up to 12 plants in enclosed and locked facilities. If the initiative passes as expected, what would be considered a felony for patients in Wisconsin will be legal if you step across the state border into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. A situation like that cannot last long.
In addition, one correction per the MPP, the Illinois medical cannabis bill did not die in the Senate as the Tribune reports below, but is scheduled to return in the post-election veto session.
Source: Chicago Tribune: click here
Across Midwest, interest in medical marijuana grows
Michigan vote seen as test for region on issue
By Tim Jones
July 13, 2008The move to legalize medical marijuana is advancing in the Midwest, with Michigan poised to be the first state between the Rockies and New England to sanction the use of the illegal drug by terminally or seriously ill people.
Michigan voters will decide in November whether to authorize marijuana use, if a doctor determines suffering from such diseases as cancer, Crohn's disease, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer's or hepatitis C could be eased by the drug.
While years of public opinion polling show opposition to legalizing marijuana, polls and the overwhelming majority of state referendum votes show strong support for medical use of marijuana. At the same time, some physician groups have dropped their resistance to medical marijuana.
The combined effect of public opinion, medical research showing benefits of marijuana in the treatment of some diseases and shifts in attitudes in the medical community has fueled the movement that has seen 12 states adopt medical marijuana laws in the past dozen years.
"We need to get beyond the political debate and into medical terms. That's where the public is," said Dianne Byrum, a former state legislator in Michigan and spokeswoman for the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care, the Detroit-area group that turned in 475,000 signatures to earn a spot on the fall ballot.
"This is really about patients and their suffering. ... For them, medical use of marijuana should give them comfort and not the threat of arrest or jail," Byrum said.
Doctors drop opposition
There is evidence in the Midwest suggesting political interest. Five Michigan cities already have medical marijuana ordinances. The Minnesota state Senate recently approved a medical marijuana measure, though it died on the House floor. A similar measure died in the Illinois state Senate in the past session. Other measures were debated in Ohio, Wisconsin and Missouri.
Less than four months before the November election, there is no organized opposition to Michigan's binding referendum. The Michigan State Medical Society, the state's arm of the American Medical Association, recently dropped its opposition to medical marijuana and said it will be neutral in the fall campaign.
"We're keeping an open mind that marijuana in limited amounts can help some," said Dr. Michael Sandler, a diagnostic radiologist and president of the Michigan State Medical Society.
But resistance is expected to develop, given the political volatility of the marijuana issue and the experience California has had since voters there endorsed use of medical marijuana in 1996.
The California law says that patients need a prescription to acquire the drug but it is otherwise vague. That legal opening led to the creation of so-called marijuana clubs and the large-scale growing of the drug in fields and homes. Hundreds of marijuana dispensaries are scattered around the state, and dozens of cities have cracked down on cultivation.
California endorsed "political chaos," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, which advocates "the repeal of marijuana prohibition."
"No other state has and no other state will replicate what California did," St. Pierre said. "Every ensuing state [has approved laws] that narrowly define the types of diseases, require the amount of cannabis they can possess is relatively small and the number of plants they can possess is relatively small. And there will be absolutely no retail dispensary-like model that has emerged in California."
What Michigan proposes
With that in mind, the Michigan proposal would allow a patient to legally possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana or grow up to 12 plants in enclosed and locked facilities.
Continues: click here
July 09, 2008
Drug dog sniffs outside car constitutional – WI Supreme Court
Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
In a split 4-3 decision described as “scary” and “disheartening” by the defendant’s attorney, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled a drug search constitutional.
A Chicago Tribune article, “Wisconsin Supreme Court: Police dog sniffs OK,” click here, reported this reaction from the defendant’s attorney:Arias' attorney, Lora B. Cerone, called the decision disheartening and "scary." Officers apparently no longer need justification for searching around cars with their dogs if it's done quickly, she said.
"If they pull you over without a reason, it's illegal. Now, if it's not too long, we're not going to suppress the evidence. That's brand new," she said.
The court probably felt it couldn't let a man caught with drugs go free, she added.
Here is more from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Supremes again split 4-3
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blogs click here
By Marie Rohde
Wednesday, Jul 9 2008, 11:23 AMA 33-year-old Clark County man can be tried on charges of possession of cocaine and a switchblade knife after the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a police dog's sniffing outside the car he was a passenger in did not violate his constitutional rights.
The high court was closely divided on the issues raised and the minority opinion suggested that the defense raise issues of probably cause that could exclude the key evidence against the man, Ramon Lopez Arias.
The majority opinion, written by Patience Drake Roggensack, found that a police dog's sniffing of the exterior of a car did not constitute a police search and that the officer did not unreasonably prolong the stop of the car to complete his controlled substance investigation.
The arrest occurred on Aug. 20, 2005 when a police officer was running radar detection near Highway 13 in Clark County. The officer saw Arias leave a grocery store with three 12-packs of beer and enter that he knew belonged to a 17-year-old woman. The officer stopped the vehicle because it's illegal for minors to transport intoxicants.
A police dog was in the squad with the officer. After giving the woman a preliminary breath test and determined she had not consumed alcohol, he had the dog sniff around the exterior of the car. Prosecutors conceded that the officer did not have a reasonable suspicion of drug activity before the dog sniff. The dog sat and barked on the driver's side of the car, an indication of the presence of drugs.
Arias and the car were then searched. A plastic bag containing cocaine was found between the cushions of the front seat, as was the knife.
When other officers arrived, the beer was removed from the car and the underage woman was released. She was issued a citation the next day.
Clark County Circuit Court Judge Jon Counsell suppressed the evidence and the appeals court agreed.
"A dog sniff of the exterior of a vehicle located in a public places does not constitute a search under the Wisconsin Constitution," Roggensack wrote in the majority opinion. "The great weight and clear preponderance of the evidence shows that the dog sniff prolonged the detention (of Arias) by 78 seconds. Under the totality of the circumstances is not an unreasonable incremental intrusion upon Arias' liberty."
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, who wrote the dissenting opinion, noted that it is politically difficult to suppress evidence when an illegal search results in police finding drugs.
"Judges make those tough calls because of their commitment to the rule of law and adherence to their oath of office," Bradley wrote. "We expect no less of them."
The initial stop of the car was unrelated to a drug investigation, a crucial test, Bradley said. She also noted that when the case returns to circuit court, the issue of whether the officer had probable cause to stop the car should be addressed.
Bradley said the majority decision was in conflict with precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court.
July 07, 2008
Appleton Post Crescent: Crimes with ties to alcohol burden police, fill courts
Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, July 7, 2007
Appleton's Post Crescent continues their series on Wisconsin's alcohol culture with this eye-opening article on the costs to society from overconsumption of alcohol.
Crimes with ties to alcohol burden police, fill courts click here
Drunken driving cited most often for impact on criminal justice system
Source: Appleton Post-Crescent
July 7, 2008
By Jim Collar
Post-Crescent staff writerIt figures into divorces and child- custody disputes.
It informs disorderly conduct cases, domestic battery, theft and worse.
It's substance abuse, and it's mentioned in about 90 percent of the case files that cross the desk of Scott Woldt, one of six Winnebago County circuit judges.
While cocaine and marijuana play a part in many criminal cases because of Winnebago County's position along the U.S. 41 corridor north of Milwaukee and Chicago, a perfectly legal substance flows through half of Woldt's caseload: Alcohol.
For those crimes where alcohol clearly is the cause, Wisconsin's rates are near the top in the nation.
Wisconsin had the sixth highest arrest rate for operating while intoxicated, according to 2006 FBI crime statistics, and the fourth highest arrest rate for liquor law violations.
The costs of alcohol abuse on the criminal justice system aren't easy to determine; alcohol consumption and crime aren't always a matter of cause and effect, statistics show. But police, judges and others say Wisconsin's uniquely deep-seated and seemingly intractable love affair with alcohol is a significant driver of criminal justice costs across the board.
State Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, estimated combined criminal justice and societal costs of alcohol abuse in Wisconsin at $3.2 billion annually. That figure includes estimates for policing, courts and incarceration, car crashes, premature deaths, lost productivity and academic failure. Berceau is a key proponent for an increase in the state's beer tax. The state Department of Transportation estimated that alcohol-related crashes alone accounted for a $512 million economic loss in the state in 2001.
Drunken driving is the most commonly cited example of drinking's impact in Wisconsin. A federal report released in April showed Wisconsin led the nation in the number of adult residents who reported driving while under the influence of alcohol in the previous year.
On the front lines of the fight to stanch the flow of alcohol into Wisconsin's streets and roads are cops like Sgt. Pat DeWall and Sgt. Dennis Weyenberg of the Appleton Police Department.
During a Saturday night foot patrol Feb. 23 in the 500 block of College Avenue, DeWall and Weyenberg happened upon colleagues who were trying to take an intoxicated woman into custody after a scuffle on the sidewalk.
The woman screamed for a female officer. She squirmed and swore as two male officers attempted to apply a set of handcuffs.
Weyenberg would not be so busy on the job, he said, if not for alcohol.
Costs pile up
Alcohol is every bit as much a part of Wisconsin's heritage as dairy farms and the Green Bay Packers. It's a component of social interaction, whether at a Wednesday night softball game or the annual church picnic.
But alcohol abuse is common and touches many areas of life, said Kari Kinnard, executive director of Wisconsin's Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In 2005, the state topped the nation for binge drinking, current alcohol use and chronic, heavy drinking among adults, according to the state Department of Health and Family Services.
The costs of alcohol abuse, measured in car crashes, lost productivity and crime, pile up.
Crimes specifically linked to alcohol illustrate its impact on Wisconsin's criminal-justice system.
From 1996 to 2004, Wisconsin's arrest rate for liquor-law violations was more than three times the national rate, according to the state Department of Health and Family Services.
In 2006, 20 percent of all juvenile and adult arrests made in Wisconsin were either for liquor-law violations or operating while intoxicated, state crime statistics show.
Alcohol figures into other crimes too. The U.S. Department of Justice estimated that more than one third of sexual assaults each year involve alcohol use on the part of the offender.
In violent crimes against spouses, 75 percent of victims reported that the offender was drinking before the offense, according to the justice department.
Beth Schnorr, director of Appleton's Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs, said there's a definite relationship between alcohol and domestic abuse, though it isn't necessarily cause-and-effect. Abusers use alcohol as an excuse. Victims use it as a coping mechanism.
In the Fox Cities, examples of the high cost of alcohol borne by the criminal justice system are everywhere. In the first five months of 2008, Winnebago County prosecutors charged 28 people with a felony-level crime for a fifth or subsequent drunken driving offense, court records show. Outagamie County filed another 12 cases.
But some costs to the criminal-justice system of alcohol use comes from preventive measures. Last year, police conducted about 3,500 tavern checks, Appleton Capt. Pete Helein said. The mere presence of officers goes a long way to prevent crime, he said.
Appleton police provide additional staffing on Friday and Saturday nights in the downtown entertainment district to assure that those enjoying College Avenue taverns are safe and behaving. Four officers traverse the avenue by foot and walk through taverns while others patrol by squad in search of drunken driving offenses.
The two pairs of officers walk beats on Friday and Saturday evenings from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. In 2006, the foot patrol racked up 1,767 hours of overtime, totaling $74,591. Those numbers rose to 2,065 hours and $89,769 in 2007.
Other officers focused on enforcement of drunken driving laws. In 2006, that effort generated 1,700 of overtime worth $70,839. In 2007, the hours dropped to 999 with a cost of $45,103 thanks to the addition of State Patrol officers assigned to Outagamie County. The troopers worked four-hour shifts resulting in 31 drunken driving arrests.
DeWall said he's pleasantly surprised by how many leave their cars behind on College Avenue in favor of cabs.
Yet, it's the few who don't that create the need for an additional police presence.
"It definitely changes people's personalities," Weyenberg said. "People do things they wouldn't dream about doing if they weren't drinking."
July 06, 2008
Appleton Post Crescent ranks Wisconsin Number One for alcohol’s impact on lives
Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, July 6, 2008
It has been said that in Wisconsin, if you do not drink alcohol, you are part of the counterculture. Now, an analysis by the Appleton Post Crescent seems to confirm that statement.
The Post Crescent articles, entitled, "State of Drinking: How our love for alcohol shapes Wisconsin's cultural landscape," document just how ingrained alcohol use and abuse is in state culture and the toll it wreaks. An Audio slideshow: State of Drinking, documents the physical toll on state drinkers click here.
NORML's director, Allen St. Pierre, writing on NORML's blog, recently included the alcohol industry as part of the "5 pillars of marijuana prohibition" click here, "Companies that would have to compete with cannabis and hemp products if it were not for the government’s cannabis prohibition, and therefore lobby for cannabis/hemp to remain illegal and its consumers treated like violent criminals".
While Wisconsin's Tavern League has blocked any increase in the state's beer tax since 1969, state cannabis consumers are more than willing to pay a fair tax to have safe and legal access to a quality product. Thirty years ago people were predicting the end of cannabis prohibition was just around the corner. It's time to tear down the walls of prohibition and embrace cannabis, the last best hope for Planet Earth.
Analysis ranks state No. 1 for alcohol’s impact on lives
July 5, 2008
By Susan Squires
Source: Appleton Post-Crescent click hereFederal revenue agent Frank Buckley arrived in 1929 to document Prohibition enforcement in Wisconsin. He found more tolerance for drinking than for Prohibition.
“Wisconsin,” he wrote in his report to Washington, “is commonly regarded as a Gibraltar of the Wets — sort of a Utopia where everyone drinks their fill and John Barleycorn still holds forth in splendor.”
Eighty years later, Wisconsin’s reputation is intact. Alcohol goes hand-in-hand with tailgating, snowmobiling, deer hunting, kids’ baseball games and even church functions.
“I’ve been drunker here than anyplace else I’ve been in my life,” comedian Lewis Black told an audience in Madison. “And remember this: You are not — you are not — alcoholics. You, and my hat is off, are professionals.”
But Wisconsin’s legendary propensity for imbibing was grounded in a loose collection of statistics and anecdotes — until now.
Gannett Wisconsin Media developed a unique methodology for demonstrating in quantifiable terms, for what is thought to be the first time, that Wisconsin’s reputation is well deserved.
The state is second to none for the depth and breadth of its drinking culture — from the considerable boost alcohol provides the economy to the human toll it exacts on highways and in hospitals.
That was Gannett Wisconsin’s finding after ranking all 50 states in 10 areas thought collectively to provide the best gauge of the culture of drinking. Those key areas measure the price, availability and consumption of alcohol, along with alcohol’s related criminal justice, social and health impacts.
The newspaper group’s analysis is unique in that it takes into account all 10 indicators to arrive at a composite score for each state. Conceptually, Gannett Wisconsin’s ranking system makes sense, several epidemiologists and experts on alcohol said.
Continues: click here.
July 02, 2008
Ex-Marquette County deputy accused of drug evidence thefts
Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
The Portage Daily Register has this article about a former Marquette County Wisconsin cop facing a second set of charges relating to allegations of drug thefts from the department evidence locker.
Former deputy accused of stealing drugs headed to trial
Source: Portage Daily Register click here
By Shannon GreenMONTELLO — A former Marquette County sheriff's deputy accused of stealing drugs from an evidence storage room is headed to trial on a second set of charges.
Marquette County Circuit Court Judge Richard O. Wright ruled Tuesday that there is enough evidence to continue a second case against Daniel P. Card, 31.
The state attorney general's office in May filed new charges against Card based on evidence that he took drugs, including narcotics, cocaine and marijuana, on April 29, 2007, from the evidence room at the sheriff's department, according to a criminal complaint. The charges are similar to those filed previously against him, stemming from alleged incidents in May 2007.
Jeff Gabrisiak and Dennis Krueger, assistant attorneys general with the Wisconsin Department of Justice, are special prosecutors in both cases, because Card worked for the sheriff's department.
Card faces charges of felony burglary and possession of narcotic drugs; and misdemeanor possession of cocaine, theft, and entry into a locked room.
In March, a deputy discovered in the department's records room an empty prescription bottle, stored as evidence for a 2006 case. That led to an investigation into other items missing from the department's evidence room, according to the criminal complaint.
During the investigation, deputies discovered a second empty prescription bottle, three empty evidence bags and a dated receipt from April 29, 2007, in the back of a filing cabinet containing records from 1995, the complaint stated.
The bottle and bags were labeled as evidence in cases from 1996, 1997 and 2006, and contained narcotic pills, cocaine and marijuana, according to the complaint. The receipt was from an April 29, 2007, purchase from the Montello Mart with a debit card later identified as Card's.
Card pleaded not guilty in April to charges filed in December: two counts of felony burglary, one count of misdemeanor theft, felony possession of narcotic drugs without a prescription and misdemeanor possession of cocaine or crack cocaine.
The criminal complaint in that case alleges Card removed 59 tablets of oxycodone and a small amount of crack cocaine, on or before May 12, 2007, that was held as evidence in the storage room at the Marquette County Sheriff's Department. The complaint also alleges that one week later Card again entered the storage room with the intent to steal drugs.
Two witnesses for the prosecution testifed Tuesday, including Chief Deputy Joe Konrath. Konrath was the investigator in each of the original cases from which Card allegedly stole drugs.
Konrath testified that he tested the drugs as part of the initial investigations in previous years. On cross-examination, he testified that he was directly linked with all of the initial cases from which the drug evidence was taken.
Konrath also testified that only three people other than himself are authorized to enter the locked evidence room: the sheriff and two investigators. However, he said, 12 people had keys in early 2007. Card did not have a key, Konrath testified.
Card resigned from the department June 1, 2007, after beginning work with the department as a correctional officer in the jail in November 2005.
An arraignment on the second case is scheduled for July 23.
Dean Strang of Madison, Card's defense attorney, said he expects Card to plea not guilty to the second set of charges.
The trial for the charges filed in December is Sept. 9-10, but the dates could change, as the two sets of charges will likely be tried together. That trial could take three days.
If he is found guilty of the new charges, Card faces up to 11 and a half years in prison and $60,000 in fines, in addition to a maximum of 31 years in prison and fines of up to $80,000 for the charges filed in December.