Dear Editor: The scourge of heroin addiction in his family recently spurred the introduction of a slate of bills by Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, to address the issue in Wisconsin.

Illness of a family member or loved one has inspired many bills. Everyone knows someone touched by addiction, accident or serious illness. Wisconsin medical cannabis legislation carries the name of Jacki Rickert of Mondovi, who has endured a lifetime of painful conditions. Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, and Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, last week rolled out their updated Jacki Rickert Medical Cannabis Act (JRMCA).

The "gateway theory" that wrongly tagged cannabis as a stepping stone to addiction has long been discredited. The truth is cannabis, in addition to numerous medical uses and health benefits, is long documented as a gateway back from addiction.

The late Dr. Tod H. Mikuriya wrote in his 1969 book, "Marijuana in Medicine," how cannabis was documented as a substitute for opiates in the late 1800s. After pot became widely available in the late 1960s, many alcoholics began to substitute cannabis for alcohol and research has found it can protect from brain damage incurred by binge drinking as well.

Studies have also documented how cannabis works synergistically with the body's own system to allow patients to reduce or eliminate medications. This is particularly well-documented with opiates. The widespread availability of prescription opiates has been the gateway to many heroin addictions. If pain patients could first try cannabis, they might find they do not need to use medications that are not only addictive but carry a laundry list of potential side effects.

So while the heroin bills may be part of the solution to state addiction problems, so is passing the Jacki Rickert Medical Cannabis Act, which would address a broad swath of need for safer, more effective, natural treatments for a wide variety of symptoms while reducing the need for and use of medications that can lead to more addiction.

Gary Storck


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