As stoners spark up joints in celebration of several Wisconsin counties, including Rock, passing advisory referendums favoring marijuana legalization, we call on more sober minds to provide leadership on this issue.
The results of Tuesday’s “green wave” come with a major caveat: Five of the six counties that passed referendums for recreational use lean Democratic.
Before considering any law changes, we need a statewide referendum to gauge the opinion of all Wisconsin residents on legalization—red counties included. While national polls show increasing support for legalizing recreational use, it’s not clear Wisconsin voters as a whole back it.
And before making any leap into legalizing recreational use, Wisconsin must settle the question of legalizing medical marijuana, which is more widely supported. It’s premature to discuss recreational use when the state doesn’t even have a framework for distributing medical marijuana.
More research is required, and the Legislature or Gov.-elect Tony Evers should form a commission to study how other states are regulating pot. If recreational legalization is to someday happen here, Wisconsin must avoid the mistakes made by other pot sanctuaries, such as Colorado and California.
There are several questions such a commission could consider. One of the assumed benefits of legalization is it will eliminate the black market for pot. Yet, Colorado’s black market is booming, with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration spending more time on marijuana trafficking cases now than before legalization, according to a May 28 Canadian Broadcasting report. How might Wisconsin end its black market for pot?
How should the state deter people from driving while high? Determining whether pot’s psychoactive compound, THC, is impairing performance isn’t as simple or objective as a breathalyzer test like with alcohol. THC can be detected in a person’s body long after its intoxicating effects have worn off. Until there’s a scientific method for measuring impairment, pot use will continue to frustrate law enforcement.
How will employers navigate hiring and firing under legal pot? Some employers conduct drug tests as a condition of employment, but with legalization, how do employers distinguish between the “responsible” pot users and the employee who smokes everyday before coming to work?
Michigan will have to deal with these questions on the fly. On Tuesday, it became the first Midwestern state to legalize marijuana for recreational use—and so legal pot is now at Wisconsin’s doorstep. Legalization will cause problems for Michigan, and the effects will spill into Wisconsin, which shares a 170-mile border with Upper Michigan.
Legalization is spreading fast, and Wisconsin needs to fully understand this trend, not ignore it and hope it goes away. As difficult as it may be, legalization opponents should contemplate their eventual defeat. Preferable would be losing on terms that would minimize the damage that legalization will do to our society.
We can’t let stoners and their allies be in charge of making pot policy.