Pubdate: Sat, 07 Jun 2014
Source: Wausau Daily Herald (WI)
Copyright: 2014 Wausau Daily Herald
Author: Keith Uhlig


WAUSAU - If you have a stereotype in mind about who wants to change 
marijuana prohibition laws, the meeting held Saturday afternoon at 
the Marathon County Public Library likely would have broken it.

The Northern Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization for the 
Reform of Marijuana Laws held its Talking Hemp and Cannabis Tour 
event there, a two-hour event that was part political action 
movement, part economic development sales pitch and an all-out rebuke 
of the political and legal system that has declared the so-called war on drugs.

"Prohibition is not stopping anything," said Rich Martin, 46, of 
Neenah, the past executive director of the Northern Wisconsin chapter 
of NORML. He spoke about the advantages of hemp, the benefits of 
medical marijuana and the benefits of the legalization of the 
recreational use of pot. "Prohibition is ruining peoples' lives," he 
said. "We're doing all kinds of things (to stop drug use), but it 
gets worse and worse."

A better drug policy would be to "control, regulate and educate," 
Martin said. "How do we keep people off drugs? Education. Not propaganda."

Martin's words resonated with a diverse crowd of nearly 30 people, 
who included middle-aged people keenly interested in medical 
marijuana use, young men and women who clearly enjoyed the idea of 
legalized recreational use and others from a range of ages and 
backgrounds who think legalization of marijuana and hemp would be beneficial.

"I don't think anybody has the right to tell us what we can do and 
can't do with our bodies," said Ken Amundsen, 66, of Wausau, a 
retired city bus driver. Amundsen, who said he served in the U.S. 
Navy during the Vietnam War, said he's a member of NORML and will 
encourage others to join the group, even if he doesn't think the 
legalization of marijuana will come anytime soon in Wisconsin.

"We're not a progressive state anymore," Amundsen said. "We're a 
rubber stamp for the Tea Party. And the Democrats don't have the guts 
to squawk about it."

Erica Zernia, 32, of Rhinelander brought her son to the event. Her 
main goal, she said, was to work to legalize hemp, cousin of cannabis 
that does not get people high. Instead, hemp can be used to make 
clothes, building materials and food.

"Hemp is a beautiful thing," Zernia said. "It could create so many jobs."

This is the first time the Northern Wisconsin chapter of NORML has 
held meetings in the Wausau area in order to raise its profile and 
influence, said Gene Check, 57, of Stevens Point, the current 
executive director of the chapter.

"Right now we're trying to educate the public," Check said. 
"Legalizing hemp, that's a no-brainer."

Check said public opinion is also swaying in a pro-pot direction, 
especially within the context of legalization in Colorado and Washington state.

Several polls have shown that the majority of Americans believe that 
pot should be legal, he said, and the group is working to capitalize 
on and bolster that trend.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom