Madison is a community of thinking people. It has a reputation of studying issues and buying in when something makes sense. And nothing makes more sense than the legalization of cannabis (marijuana). By every standard of truth, cannabis has proven itself to be a benefit to any governmental body that legalizes it.
In Colorado, where I visit often, cannabis is a key news topic year round. Its legalization has raised a remarkable amount of money for the state’s schools. Patient studies call it the best seizure medicine in history. Legalization has helped spur a massive drop in crime, murder and hard drug overdoses. Even the tourism industry has benefited as the curious come to observe.
But there’s a sad fact here in Wisconsin. We won’t see any change in cannabis laws because our current governor has firmly asserted that he will do nothing to change the laws in place. That means that Madisonians have to step up and decide whether to legalize it in our city.
First, though, we need to answer clearly all the touchy questions about cannabis.
A big question, of course, is about the children. Child drug use in general doesn’t go up in any city or country where drugs are legalized. It doesn’t go down either, indicating what we already know. Kids will get drugs and use them if they want to, regardless of the laws. In Portugal, when all drugs were legalized three years ago, everyone thought the country would fall apart. A year later it was verified that drug use remained the same in all age groups. A stable home, a good school and a decent neighborhood is the formula for effective child development.
What about addiction? Yes, substances can be physically and emotionally addictive, but cannabis isn’t one of them (zero deaths in history from marijuana). As a medical professional it is obvious to me that substances are not the problem. People are the problem. Addictive people will become addicted to anything. Gambling, sex, marathon running, caffeine, sugar — and those are innocent compared to the two most dangerous and addictive substances, the legal ones: alcohol and cigarettes (over 700,000 deaths per year from these two).
Next is the notion that cannabis is a “gateway drug” and will lead to other drug use. Let’s get this straight. There are over 30 million daily users of cannabis in the U.S. and very few of them have moved down the line to harder drugs. The people who did were likely addictive in nature. Ask anyone who has been around the culture. If a person is a primary cannabis user, they maybe drink a little, but that’s about it.
But what about crime and cannabis? When marijuana is properly legalized, all of the crime around it disappears along with other drug-related and violent crime. That’s what’s happened in the states and cities that have legalized it. This herb is pretty innocent and nonaggressive. The crime rate in Denver, for instance, has dropped 15 percent and murder is down 24 percent. That is phenomenal for a major city. There was no change in this time period other than legalizing cannabis. It is reasonable to say that people took to this herb and stopped what drinking and hard drugs got them to do: robbing, shooting, raping, beating, crashing — you get it.
Madison has an opportunity to follow the lead of cities like Denver and Washington, D.C., where the citizens can have a little and grow a little. Talk to your alders and write letters to the newspapers. Let’s get this in motion.
There is a certain simple freedom in growing, sharing and using marijuana as adults. That is what we deserve and that is what more than 58 percent of Americans say they want. My late father, Bob Kundert, said all of this before 1980. Learn more about cannabis and ask questions. It is quite innocent and beneficial. Try a trip to Denver. Many grandmas have. Let’s free the herb.
Jeff Kundert, of Madison, is the son of the late Bob Kundert, who was well known in Madison and elsewhere for his crusades to legalize marijuana. He founded the American Cannabis Society in 1978. Jeff is a wellness educator in the health industry.
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