The following editorial was published in Monday’s Wisconsin State Journal:
In general, we’re not keen on looking to Illinois for leadership and direction on, well, almost anything.
But Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn did the right thing last week when he signed into law a bill that approves medical marijuana for Illinois residents, making our neighbor to the south the 20th state, along with the District of Columbia, to legalize pot for medical purposes.
Wisconsin should step up and do the same, an act that would give our residents who suffer from many debilitating conditions the same relief that is available now in nearly half the country.
Another Midwest neighbor, Michigan, approved medical marijuana five years ago. Other states made the leap as far back as the late 1990s.
From Maine (1999) to New Mexico (2007), from Alaska (1998) to Massachusetts (2012), the medical marijuana movement is taking hold.
And why not? Cancer patients, back pain sufferers and scores of others who deal with chronic illnesses from glaucoma to HIV report finding relief from marijuana use, whether the legal or illegal versions of the plant.
Many of those patients lined up last week to tell their stories as Quinn signed into law the four-year trial program in Illinois that will start Jan. 1.
The Illinois plan calls for strict controls on both growers and users of medical marijuana. The rules vary from state to state, and Illinois appears to have among the tightest controls in the nation.
Of course, those rules that regulate how much and when and how users can obtain the medical pot are too loose for opponents of the plan and too tight for supporters.
Which probably means the rules are about right.
Four years ago, state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, and then-state Rep. Mark Pocan, a Madison Democrat now serving in Congress, tried for a medical marijuana bill in Wisconsin.
That proposed bill led to public hearings but fizzled in committee. But a new effort to make pot legal for medical use in Wisconsin may not be far off.
Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, told The Capital Times last week she and Erpenbach plan to introduce another bill this fall.
“It would be fairly tightly controlled,” Taylor said. “Given that, I would hope some Republicans would support this.”
We would, too. Wisconsin is way past due on approving medical marijuana.