Madison Medical Marijuana Awareness Week article
by Gary Storck
appeared in March 2004 Progressive Dane Newsletter
The City of Madison has long been a leader in progressive policies towards medical marijuana, dating back to the 1970's. In 1976, local activists gathered enough signatures to place an initiative on the ballot that decriminalized the private possession of marijuana and allowed medical use with "a valid prescription or order of a practitioner".
On April 5, 1977, Madison voters passed the initiative by a 60/40 margin, creating Madison General Ordinance 23.20. On May 18, 1993, the City Council adopted Resolution 50.068, sponsored by former alder Ricardo Gonzalez, urging Congress to change federal law and allow the use of medical marijuana. Copies were sent to then President Clinton, as well as other federal officials and Wisconsin's congressional delegation.
Since its formation in 2001, the Progressive Dane drug policy task force has been studying the issue of medical marijuana and discussing strategies to further implement Ord. 23.20.
PD drug policy task force member Gary Storck, a Madison resident and lifelong glaucoma sufferer, who also works with the group, "Is My Medicine Legal YET?", has been spearheading the task force efforts and approached his alder, Judy Olson, who agreed to sponsor a Medical Marijuana Awareness Week resolution. The two worked together to craft a resolution, and Olson was able to line up 7 sponsors: Mike Verveer, Jean MacCubbin, Brenda Konkel, Matt Sloan, Austin King, Steve Holtzman and Brian Benford.
The resolution was on the agenda at the Council's March 2, 2004 meeting. Gary Storck was the first to speak in support, recalling the Madison's longstanding commitment to compassionate policies toward cannabis, and the need to protect patients. "In the face of uncontrollable suffering, marijuana has literally been a godsend," Storck noted.
Storck was followed by Madison Attorney Chris Kelly, representing the Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Kelly talked about representing medical marijuana patients, and related an unsuccessful attempt to get a judge in northern Wisconsin to reduce a 2-year prison term for a severely ill client who had cultivated some marijuana for medical use.
Next up was Progressive Dane co-chair and PD drug policy task force co-chair Stephanie Rearick followed by former-alder Barb Vedder, both who delivered strong testimony. 5 people also registered in support but did not speak.
Judy Olson, who deserves special thanks for having the courage to sponsor the resolution, began her comments by noting "some people probably wished she had not brought this to the council." She then went on to say the issue needed to be discussed and praised supporters for their courage in discussing their health issues publicly. She closed by reading the Purpose statement from Ord. 23.20, "The people of Madison specifically determine that the regulations herein contained concerning marijuana and cannabis are necessary to serve the ethical purpose of providing just and equitable legal treatment of the citizens of this community and to preserve the respect of such citizens for law, its process, and its administration."
Austin King then spoke strongly in support, later rebutting comments by 7th District Alder Zach Brandon, who had argued against adoption, saying "Any week that promotes drug use, be it legal or illegal, is not an appropriate message for this body to be sending."
The resolution was ultimately adopted on an 11-5 roll call vote. With a couple of key supporters absent, the vote was closer than it seemed. Voting for adoption were: Judy Olson, Mike Verveer, Jean MacCubbin, Brenda Konkel, Matt Sloan, Austin King, Tim Bruer, Gregory Markle, Paul Skidmore, Cindy Thomas and Brian Benford. Voting against were: Zach Brandon, Warren Onken, Judy Compton. Santiago Rosas, and Paul Van Rooy. Sponsor Steve Holtzman was not present during the vote. Absent were: Ken Golden, Robbie Webber, and Linda Bellman.