Hundreds of medical marijuana supporters rallied Sunday at the State Capitol for legislation that would make Wisconsin the 14th state to legalize cannabis for treatment of debilitating illnesses.
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, are co-sponsors of the newly drafted Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act, which would protect Wisconsin patients from arrest and prosecution and allow them or a designated caregiver to possess and grow a small amount of cannabis for medical use, said Gary Storck, communications director for the nonprofit advocacy organization Is My Medicine Legal YET?
“It is time that we address medical marijuana as an issue of providing comprehensive health care to all people,” Pocan and Erpenbach said in a memo to legislators. “The patient and their doctor should have as many options as possible available when treating a patient’s medical condition.”
Rickert, a 58-year-old grandmother from Mondovi who has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and advanced reflex sympathetic dystrophy, founded IMMLY in 1992. In 1997, she led a 210-mile trek of patients in wheelchairs from Mondovi to Madison to advocate for legal access to marijuana.
Rickert said she began using marijuana to stimulate her appetite after dropping to 68 pounds. “I’m alive because of cannabis,” said Rickert, who now calls herself “a heavyweight” at 93 pounds.
“It’s got to be this bill, this time,” Rickert told supporters Sunday, saying that every time someone else signs on in support of medical marijuana, “It’s like saying, ‘More hope.'”
Storck, who has been advocating for medical marijuana for decades, said cannabis has helped him retain his eyesight, which he began losing from glaucoma as a child. He agreed that the time for passing legislation could be now or never. “Gov. Doyle has been willing to sign it all along,” he said, adding, “The legislature has never been in a position to pass it until now.”
Storck said that while there is a lot of support for the legislation from people throughout the state, “We need them to step forward and let their legislators know it.”
The act is based on a Michigan law passed by voters in November 2008, Storck said. It also includes provisions from a Rhode Island law that would allow patients to obtain medical marijuana from dispensaries if they cannot grow it themselves.
By SANDY CULLEN