Mike Crute and Dominic Salvia, co-hosts of The Devil’s Advocates radio show (92.1 FM-The Mic), regularly invite politicians to their studio to discuss a wide range of policy issues.
But there is one question that every guest is expected to answer, no matter the news of the day: Do you support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana?
On Thursday, for the first time ever, a politician unconditionally answered in the affirmative.
“I would, yes,” said state Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison.
“Hallelujah,” responded Crute. “We finally got a straight answer out of someone!”
Other politicians appearing on the show in the past have voiced support for relaxing some marijuana laws. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, for instance, noted her approval for medical marijuana and the decriminalization of pot possession.
But Sargent is the first to support to support full legalization.
The freshman legislator from Madison's north side explained that while she supported legislation to authorize medical cannabis, she believed that the resulting system might be one rife with loopholes, as people seeking to get a hold of high-quality reefer may fabricate medical woes to get a pot prescription.
“People are going out and getting medical marijuana cards because ‘Oh I have this one pain that you can’t prove’ because they want to be using marijuana recreationally as opposed to medically,” she said. “And who’s to define what’s recreation and what’s medical?”
That certainly has been a difficult question to answer in California, where anybody willing to say they suffer from anxiety or insomnia can get a prescription from a doctor to buy marijuana from one of the state's many dispensaries.
Other states with medical marijuana, however, have imposed much stricter regulations on prescriptions. Proponents of similar legislation in Wisconsin have said that the bill offers very specific rules to prevent a California-style situation from taking hold.
In the end, Sargent framed cannabis legalization as consistent with legal drinking:
“People can drink alcohol in our community and I think this is very similar to that. We have to bring ourselves back and really have these conversations about where is government’s responsibility in our lives?”
A recent poll shows that roughly half of Wisconsin voters support legalization, although it still appears to be a political non-starter. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke has said she supports examining the medical benefits of cannabis but dismissed recreational legalization as out-of-line with mainstream opinion in an interview last month.
Sargent told the Cap Times that she has not discussed the issue much with other legislators, but that she knows some members of her party would favor legislation legalizing the drug.