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December 16, 2012

Capital Times: Changing views give activist Gary Storck hope in his long push for medical cannabis

Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, December 16, 2012

Very nice article from the Cap Times' Steve Elbow!

Capital Times: Changing views give activist Gary Storck hope in his long push for medical cannabis

Gary Storck has been working for marijuana legalization for a long time. The 57-year-old Madison resident started to use it as a medication for glaucoma when he was 17 years old, and it worked.

“I smoked some and went to see my eye doctor and my eye pressures were normal,” he says. “They were usually very elevated when I went in without using cannabis.”

Born with a condition called Noonan syndrome, which causes heart problems, joint pain and a variety of other health issues, he found that marijuana — he prefers the term cannabis — relieved a lot of pain from those ailments as well.

After suffering a life-threatening infection from heart surgery in 1997, Storck became a bonafide activist, crisscrossing the county to attend protests and conferences and lobbying U.S. lawmakers. In 2004 Storck co-founded Madison NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He also co-founded Wisconsin NORML and IMMLY (Is My Medicine Legal Yet?).

In 2007, local marijuana users were heartened when then-Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard announced his office would no longer prosecute casual users, a policy that remains in place.

In 2009, when Democrats controlled state government, Storck and other activists were able to convince state Rep. Mark Pocan and state Sen. Jon Erpenbach to introduce bills that would legalize medical marijuana. But with no support from then-Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan and Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, the bills died.

Now, even though Republicans rule the roost, Storck is still hopeful. He and other activists are planning a Capitol lobby day in January. And although he expects a “tough sell,” he’s in it for the long haul.

This year, Connecticut and Massachusetts became the 17th and 18th states to pass medical marijuana laws. And on Nov. 6, Colorado and Washington stunned the nation by legalizing pot for any adult who wants to use it.

That, says Storck, is a game changer. It’s only a matter of time, he says, before Wisconsin will have to take a serious look at the issue.

“I’ve been waiting my entire lifetime for this,” he says. “And I really believe it’s here, or it’s going to be here soon.”

As he recently said in an interview with a Milwaukee radio station, “The winds of change aren’t going to stop at the Wisconsin border.”

The Capital Times: You’ve spent that last 15 years battling for medical marijuana. Now that Washington and Colorado have ended the prohibition on pot, does it make more sense to go for full legalization?

Gary Storck: I still believe that patients need to be taken care of first. But yeah I think that legalization would be better for medical users because then it wouldn’t be a forbidden fruit that only medical users have. And medical users wouldn’t be potential targets, and dispensaries and things like that wouldn’t be targets. They’d just be another business. So I think that anytime cannabis laws are reduced it gets easier for patients. Even decriminalization, as minor as that is, takes some of the fear out for patients possessing small amounts of cannabis for medical use.

CT: In 2009 most Democrats in the Legislature appeared to be lukewarm to medical marijuana. Now one of its biggest backers, Mark Pocan, is heading to Washington, D.C., to serve in the U.S. Congress. Have you found any lawmakers that are sympathetic to your cause?

GS: Rep. Chris Taylor has already indicated that she’ll be taking over writing the medical bills from Mark Pocan’s office, so that bill is already being looked at and revised from prior sessions. We have some names in mind but we haven’t really talked to anybody yet. So we’re going to go out there and try to see how they feel about this. I think it’s even worth putting the full legalization, tax and regulation out there and just see where it goes, just to have the discussion started.

CT: But you don’t seriously expect Republicans to advance a marijuana bill?

GS: Cannabis definitely isn’t on their agenda. But they do claim to be about jobs, and they claim to be about business. I’m not just talking about medical use and recreational, aka social, use. I’m talking about legalizing the hemp plant so we could have products like hempcrete and more hemp foods. There would be so many industries, and other states are going to be passing these laws and getting ahead of us. Wisconsin’s already experiencing a brain drain. Some of our best and brightest are in the states that have more lenient medical cannabis laws and now legalization laws. Why should a young person stay in a state and look for a job here when they could potentially get a felony for having a couple of joints?

CT: One of the most prevalent arguments against legalization is that marijuana is a gateway drug. Do you think that people who use marijuana are more likely to graduate to harder, more harmful, drugs?

GS: Some of the evidence that’s developed from medical use shows the exact opposite. I have a friend in California, he’s a retired Army thoracic surgeon, Dr. Tom O’Connell, and he’s been clearing people for cannabis recommendations in California since it became legal, or close to that. He gives patients a questionnaire, and his findings, and other evidence too, are that cannabis is actually a gateway back for people who are into alcohol and other drugs. They’re able to substitute cannabis for these more harmful substances and move away from them. Cannabis also works synergistically with medications. So if you take cannabis and pain medication together you take less of each. And also many people are able wean themselves off of prescription medications with cannabis. So really I think if anything, it’s a gateway away from addiction. It’s not a gateway into it.

CT: How about those who fear that legalization will increase use by kids?

GS: There’s been a bunch of really great articles online and news sources lately about children using medical cannabis for cancer and epilepsy and other things. What about when you’re a parent and you’re seeing your kid ill and they’re putting them on all these drugs, 15 drugs or something, and it’s not helping?

CT: I think what people fear most is recreational use by kids.

GS: Kids are going to access pot, most likely as teens. I know I did as a teenager. Actually I began using it to treat my glaucoma at age 17 after stumbling upon it as a treatment for glaucoma. It’s probably not a good idea to expose a developing brain to any kind of drug, including cannabis or alcohol. But I don’t agree with giving all these kids prescription meds, too. I think it’s a Band-Aid approach. Nobody wants to see kids smoke pot. That’s why legalization has been for 21 and over. But if they do use it it’s going to be safer for them than drinking or sharing their prescription meds or their friend’s attention deficit disorder meds.

CT: Despite the fact that it’s illegal, you use a considerable amount of marijuana. Ever have any problems finding it?

GS: Luckily, living in Madison, it’s a pretty tolerant town for it so I haven’t really had issues with that for a long time, thankfully, which is a big thing because this is my medicine. I really don’t know what I’d do without it. I don’t know how I could have a quality of life. It’s on the edge every day. If I didn’t have cannabis I would really be in a bad place.

Posted by Gary at 09:53 AM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2012

TodaysTMJ4.Com: Legalize marijuana in Wisconsin?

Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, December 10, 2012

Below is a link to an interview I did that aired today on WTMJ-AM620.

TodaysTMJ4.Com: Legalize marijuana in Wisconsin

Legalize marijuana in Wisconsin?

By Erik Bilstad

CREATED 5:08 PM

MADISON - Colorado and Washington states recently legalized recreational use of marijuana. Will that ever happen here in Wisconsin?

"The winds of change aren't going to stop at the Wisconsin border," Gary Storck of Madison NORML told Wisconsin's Afternoon News. "In five to ten years, there could be 20 states with legal marijuana."

AUDIO: Click to hear Storck on Wis. Afternoon News

Wisconsin could suffer 'brain drain' if state lawmakers don't consider legalization, according to Storck.

Others disagree.

"I'm mostly concerned with marijuana access to youth," said Claudia Roska, the executive director of the Addiction Resource Council. "Youth access to drugs increases the chance of substance abuse later in life."

AUDIO:Click to hear Roska on Wis. Afternoon News

Pewaukee Police Chief Ed Baumann called the idea hypocritical.

"We sit and talk about the perils of tobacco, yet we want to legalize marijuana?" Baumann asked. "That's ridiculous."

Find this article at: http://www.todaystmj4.com/news/local/182895451.html

Read full article with link to interview at TodaysTMJ4.Com: Legalize marijuana in Wisconsin?

Posted by Gary at 07:03 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2012

Madison NORML Examiner: Wisconsin pot advocates get permit for Jan. 16 Medical Marijuana Lobby Day

Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, December 3, 2013

Save the date - Wed., Jan. 13, 2013 for a Wisconsin Capitol Lobby Day!

Wisconsin pot advocates get permit for Jan. 16 Medical Marijuana Lobby Day

Madison NORML board members have confirmed State Capitol Police have approved the permit request for a Medical Cannabis Lobby Day at the Wisconsin State Capitol on Wed., Jan. 16, 2013.

Read complete original article here.

Posted by Gary at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2012

Madison NORML Examiner: Marijuana legalization momentum building in Wisconsin

Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, December 2, 2012

Here is my latest article which looks at changing attitudes in Wisconsin regarding cannabis legalization.

Marijuana legalization momentum building in Wisconsin

Colorado and Washington State voters spoke loud and clear on Nov. 6 when they approved initiatives to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis at the state level. The impact of these votes continues to reverberate nationally, internationally and right here in Wisconsin, home to some of the nation's harshest pot laws.

The Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 edition of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (circulation 325,000) published no less than four opinion pieces on cannabis legalization, three strongly in support. All four were published in the Crossroads section, three on the front page and one on Page 3 in the letters section. The articles were published under a headline, "Time For A Blunt Conversation".

Read complete article here.

Posted by Gary at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Letter to the Editor: Legalize Marijuana

Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today published 4 articles regarding cannabis legalization. Three urged legalization, one was opposed. The articles were by James Causey, a Jourmal Sentinel columnist, "State should legalize recreational marijuana, Christian Schneider, a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, "Wisconsin, take the high road on marijuana", a column against by Charles "Cully" Stimson, a former prosecutor and defense attorney who is now a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, "How pot advocates are manipulating the truth". Finally the 4th article was my Letter to the Editor, "Legalize Marijuana " reprinted below.

LEGALIZE MARIJUANA

With the "fiscal cliff" looming, Congress finds itself contemplating many unpleasant and politically unpopular options including increasing taxes and cutting Social Security and Medicare. President Barack Obama is working to build public support for his proposals.

Recent votes in Colorado and Washington State legalizing marijuana offer the president and Congress a route to both increasing revenues and saving billions now spent enforcing marijuana prohibition. Full national legalization of cannabis/hemp will provide millions of jobs and create multiple new green industries that will bring a new era of prosperity.

A majority of Americans now support legal pot. Even the chief of the Indiana State Police recently opined that legalization makes sense. Ending cannabis prohibition is just the ticket for a soft landing off the fiscal cliff.

Gary Storck
Co-founder
Is My Medicine Legal YET?
Madison

Posted by Gary at 09:55 AM | Comments (0)