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Monday, January 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 11.0° F  Fair
The Daily
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Emily's Post: Straight dope on the Wisconsin medical marijuana bill

It's high time for some straight dope on the medical marijuana bill that's budding in Wisconsin.

All puns aside, this is serious business. Marijuana, that demon weed, has long been maligned and misunderstood in American society, blamed for everything from frantic piano playing to irreversible corruption of youth. Part of the effort to discredit the industrial hemp crops grown in this country since its founding (even by the likes of George Washington himself) marijuana was also targeted by a massive misinformation campaign by various opposing business interests and politicians.

Instead of science, we've been relying on fabricated results, fear mongering, and gross generalizations to produce our policies on pot.

In the process, we've propped up criminal organizations that use murder and intimidation to run their businesses. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Recently a bill was introduced in the state Assembly by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) that would legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin. So far the proposal has 13 co-sponsors and Gov. Doyle has said he supports the move so long as doctor approval is a requirement. National opinions and trends also lend weight to the idea. The American Medical Association recently recommended that marijuana be removed from the dangerous drug classification so that more research could be done about it. 13 states have already legalized cannabis for medical use, and the Obama administration has stated that it will not seek to enforce federal drug laws in those states.

The many and varied legitimate uses of marijuana and its hempen counterparts are well documented. The most important one is, perhaps, its medicinal properties. People suffering from various types of cancer, HIV, hepatitis C, PTSD, and even Alzheimer's have benefitted from regulated usage of the drug. It can, for instance, help to relieve chronic pain and restore otherwise destroyed appetites.

I fully support the legalization of well-regulated medical marijuana not only in Wisconsin, but nationwide. I also support the decriminalization of the drug, in general, regardless of why a person chooses to use it. Even then, however, it should be regulated. I suspect such a move would only help efforts to cut down on illicit support of drug cartels and other violent criminals now associated with the underground industry. After all, if you can grow a few plants in your backyard, why buy from the guy who gets his stuff from shadier sources?

Most importantly in this case, though, the legitimization of marijuana growing and use for medical purposes would help many people clearly in need. And it would pave the way for more thorough studies into its real effects, as well as far less harmful delivery methods than smoking.

It's ridiculous that pot has occupied the same class of dangerous drugs as LSD and heroin, and that penalties for possession and even small-scale grow operations have been so disproportionate. It's even more ridiculous that our deeply ingrained and somewhat irrational fear of the stuff has led to such thorough stifling of important research-science that could help lead to a higher quality of life for those patients whose conditions would qualify them to use it.

It's high time to legalize it.

Charter emerges from bankruptcy, but what about terrible customer service?

Kudos to Charter Communications for finding its way out of the bankruptcy pit, as detailed in a Capital Times article from Monday. Despite my many, many misgivings about the company's customer service policies, I still don't wish for the collapse of a business that employs many of my fellow citizens.

But if Charter hopes to ever really thrive, regardless of the current state of our economy, it really does need to re-examine how it conducts itself. My experience-and those of countless others with whom I've broached the subject-was so piss poor that I cancelled my service with them last year, opting instead to go with the newly available AT&T U-Verse option. Call it the lesser of two evils.

Frankly, I wasn't entirely happy with the so-called "Video Competition Act" that lead to the introduction of AT&T into our market in the first place. Sure, we got a whopping one more choice in our cable providers, but the bill also stripped out pretty much all funding for PEG (public, educational, and government) channels other than what the city and taxpayers can provide (which isn't much, as the poor, dedicated souls over at WYOU can attest to).

Plus, I haven't really seen any real reduction in prices-or the addition of things like a la carte plans-since the bill's passage, benefits that were touted by its supporters. And from what I've been hearing, Charter's customer service and deceptive sign-on promotions haven't really changed, either.

The big problem, of course, is the systematic deregulation of the industry that has occurred over the last couple of decades. Cable companies have been allowed to expand to the point where they're accountable to no one, with monopolies on huge swaths of the market, and no real investment in the individual communities served. Good capitalism requires real competition, transparency, and the laws to hold them to it. At the moment, we don't seem to have either.

Worth watching

The recent firing of now former State Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos has caused more than a few raised eyebrows around town. Accusations are flying left and right that Scocos had run things poorly due to bad communication and overspending, while others claim the board that voted to fire him has become overly politicized by the Doyle administration. I don't yet know enough about the situation to make any judgments, but it's enough to make a person suspicious that there's more going on behind the scenes than at first meets the eye. I'm not one to give blanket immunity to everyone who has ever served, but Scocos appears to have enjoyed a good reputation for working on behalf of veteran's services, so I can't help but wonder. I expect there to be follow-up on this in the near future as things, inevitably, play out in court.

Rick Marolt is still at it, tirelessly questioning the UW's use of primates in many of its scientific research programs. It's a tricky subject: On the one hand you have the always urgent need to research and develop new drugs and treatments for illnesses that kill our friends and neighbors every day, and on the other you have the need not to cause undue harm and even death to helpless animals. Marolt has been trying to get the university to answer one question: Is primate research ethical? He will finally be allowed to ask it of the All Campus Animal Care and Use Committee next August, but in the meantime he's holding a talk on the subject Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.

The Landmarks Commission last night took up the issue of whether or not to issue what's called a certificate of appropriateness to the Edgewater Hotel redevelopment plan. Despite an earlier report that recommended it be approved, the final (late night) vote on the subject denied the request, putting a significant snag into the Hammes Co.'s efforts to get the project built. It remains to be seen what will happen next, but considering the City Council approved a $16 million TIF allotment to be set aside for the hotel, the mayor is a staunch backer, and a lot of lobbying time and effort has already gone into this, I wouldn't be surprised to see the decision, at very least, appealed.

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