Assembly candidates give views on judicial reform, marijuana and hemp
Editor’s note: Leading up to the midterm elections, the Upper St. Croix Valley League of Women Voters has posed a series of questions to local candidates on issues important to northwest Wisconsin. This is the fifth of five questions answered by Assembly District 28 candidates.
What would you do about judicial reform? Would you decriminalize marijuana and regulate hemp?
We have been hearing for years that our prisons are overcrowded and that something needs to be done. While I don’t think that anyone in Wisconsin would want to stop putting criminals in prison, there are still some options to curb the amount of people we send away and have to pay to house. Prevention is a good start, especially when it comes to drugs. Legislation does not teach a young person to not do drugs. Legislation does not stop criminals from accessing, selling and using drugs. But, we can focus on programs to help people who are addicted and want help. Getting to them before they end up in prison, part of the system, and ultimately unemployable is crucial in slowing down drug use and addiction. If elected, I intend on working with both sides of the aisle to address the drug crisis and hopefully prevention programs to help slow the flow of people into the prison system. If more money for prevention programs is truly the answer and will yield real results, then I would be happy to consider legislation that makes that a reality. Throwing money at problems is not always the best solution, but investing in our people to help them be better people might actually move the needle and help people better their lives.
What also needs to be considered is life after prison. What happens after someone leaves prison is often forgotten about. If the person comes out of prison a better person and truly wants to turn their life around – they face an uphill battle finding an employer who will give them a job. This means that they have no way of supporting themselves and their families, end up on the streets and live off government programs. What has been created is not a reformed person turning their life around – it is a person who has no way to support him/herself and will likely return to doing whatever got them in prison in the first place. This is just a cruel cycle.
Legalizing hemp was addressed by the Legislature this past session. Growing hemp in Wisconsin has been legalized and will be regulated by the state thanks to 2017 Wisconsin Act 100 signed into law by Governor Walker in late 2017. This is a great thing for farmers in Wisconsin who are looking for a different crop and are eager to tap into a market that was previously unavailable. Farmers are hurting right now – I am glad that they are given a new opportunity with hemp. I hope that Wisconsin’s hemp production continues to grow and we are able to be a leader in this exciting industry.
On marijuana, I will first say that I am not in favor of full legalization. I have seen what frequent marijuana use can do to a family and it is devastating. I have seen it in my own extended family. Decriminalization of a small amount of marijuana is something that I would consider if elected to the State Assembly. I am committed to considering any bill that comes before me no matter who introduces or supports it. That is the job of a legislator. That being said, I am currently not comfortable with taking the stance that marijuana use is bad, but decriminalizing it, then saying that possession of a small amount should only result in a civil forfeiture and a slap on the wrist. That may be sending the wrong message and encouraging illegal behavior. There have been discussions recently about legalizing medical marijuana in Wisconsin. This is something that I am in favor of. I understand that cancer patients and people suffering from Parkinson’s disease can benefit greatly from using medical marijuana to control pain and manage symptoms. If medical marijuana leads to a better quality of life for seriously ill patients, then they should not be robbed of the possibility of some comfort without turning into a criminal.
I truly look forward to these issues coming before me in Madison if elected to the State Assembly. I promise to listen and gather as much information as possible to make the best decisions for the 28th Assembly District.