Pubdate: Mon, 07 Oct 2002
Source: Capital Times, The  (WI)
Copyright: 2002 The Capital Times
Author: Samara Kalk Derby


State Rep. Pocan: Drug War A Failure

Elvy Musikka admits she smokes 10 joints a day.

A 63-year-old poster girl for medicinal marijuana, Musikka has smoked 
marijuana for 26 years. And for more than half that time she's smoked it 
with the consent of the federal government.

Heck, she gets her weed from the U.S. government.

"Three quarters of a million Americans are incarcerated for a plant that we 
should be thanking God for every day of our lives," the Sacramento, Calif., 
woman told a crowd of about 400 Sunday afternoon on the steps of the State 
Capitol as part of the 31st annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival.

Musikka, who suffers from the eye disease glaucoma, is one of a handful of 
people in the country - she claims seven - whom the federal government 
supplies with marijuana. The government closed the program to new patients 
in 1992.

Pro-legalization advocate Ben Masel, who organized the two-day festival and 
rally held this weekend on Library Mall, said he sent invitations to all of 
Wisconsin's 132 legislators inviting them to speak at the rally, which 
ended Sunday after a march to the Capitol.

Only one agreed, said Masel, handing the microphone over to state Rep. Mark 
Pocan, D-Madison.

Pocan told the gathering that the nation has failed in its war on drugs. 
There are 2,100 inmates in the state's prison system because of marijuana 
and they cost the state $1 billion annually, he said.

"That's billion with a B," Pocan said, adding that the state's budget 
deficit is estimated to be about that large.

Wisconsin pays $26,000 per inmate annually, he noted.

Pocan, along with Rep. Frank Boyle, D-Superior, sponsored a state Senate 
bill that would legalize the use of medical marijuana, but the legislation 
never got a hearing.

A recent poll indicated that 80 percent of the people in Wisconsin support 
the use of medical marijuana, Pocan said.

"We need to have our voices heard by the people who work up in the Capitol 
building with me," he said.

Gary Storck of the Madison organization Is My Medicine Legal Yet? 
criticized the partisan politics stalling medical marijuana legislation and 
praised U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, for co-sponsoring a medical 
marijuana bill on the federal level.

"The DEA is coming into hospitals and handcuffing patients and confiscating 
their gardens," he said. "There is no space in prison for medical marijuana 

Valerie Gremillion, a Santa Fe, N.M. neuro-scientist who runs the Global 
Dialogue Program, warned that the war on drugs has been extended to the war 
on terrorism.

"They are throwing out the Constitution. They are throwing out the Bill of 
Rights," she said.

"The winds of change are blowing," she said, to laughter as winds whipped 
leaves around the Capitol.

She encouraged the crowd of mostly young men to reclaim the Constitution. 
"When you feel that fear to speak out, that's the time to speak or we won't 
have that right anymore," she said.

Activist Claude Tower of the Madison chapter of The November Coalition said 
that marijuana smokers don't need treatment, just to be left alone.

"This is a war on the helpless and the harmless," he said.

For the march up State Street, led by reggae-ska singer Rocker T, activists 
held a banner that read "Safe Access Now" and signs like "DEA, the real 

Jen Munson, 24, who works part time at Borders bookstore, said she thinks 
marijuana ought to be legalized for medicinal purposes.

"We feel alcohol is a lot worse," said Munson, who joined the march up to 
the Capitol. "And it feels really good to get high."
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