State News: Medical Marijuana, Colin Kaepernick, Mercury

Governor Proposes Medical Marijuana Legalization

Gov. Tony Evers will propose legalizing medical marijuana in his state budget address later this month. The push for medical legalization will be accompanied by several other marijuana-related proposals, including legalization of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, establishing expungement procedures for people with marijuana possession on their criminal records and aligning state laws on cannabidiol, also known as CBD oil, with federal standards.

“I believe, and I know the people of Wisconsin overwhelmingly believe, that people shouldn’t be treated like criminals for accessing medicine that can change or maybe even save their lives,” said the governor.

Under the governor’s proposal, individuals would be able to use marijuana to treat medical conditions as long as they have authorization from a physician. Iraq War veteran Steve Acheson, who has used marijuana to treat pain related to a spinal injury and PTSD, joined the governor at his announcement. He said using the drug allowed him to stop taking a cocktail of prescription medications.

Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee, also argued Evers’ proposals would help address racial inequities in incarceration in Wisconsin.

“There is clear evidence that harsh drug laws do not deter marijuana use – all they succeed in doing is disproportionately locking up Wisconsinites of color,” Crowley said.

DNR Considering WE Energies’ Mercury Proposal

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) held a public hearing last week to discuss the proposal, drawing more than 100 people opposing the plan. We Energies spokesperson Brendan Conway said the new limits wouldn’t cause a health risk to humans or wildlife.
“Other permitees along Lake Michigan have received similar or higher mercury variances,” Conway said. “People should also understand this variance we are talking about is allowed by the EPA and the DNR, so this is not an imminent public-health risk.”
The proposal would allow We Energies to dispose up to 4.1 parts per trillion of mercury into Lake Michigan on any given day. That is about three times more than the 1.3 parts per trillion that is considered safe for wildlife.
We Energies has averaged 1.26 parts per trillion over the last five years. Before the request, the amount of mercury We Energies was emitting into the lake was low enough to not require water-quality standards, said Jason Knutson, a wastewater section chief with the DNR.
The DNR has granted variances for other wastewater plants along Lake Michigan, including plants in Kenosha, Racine and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District on Jones Island, just south of downtown Milwaukee.
By comparison, those plants have variances for 3.0, 5.8 and 6.4 parts per trillion per day, Knutson said.

Supreme Court Candidate Backs School That Bans Homosexuals

State Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn sits on the board of a school that bans gay teachers, students and parents – a position liberal advocacy groups say disqualifies him from sitting on the state’s highest court.

Hagedorn helped to found and sits on the board of the Augustine Academy, a Christian elementary school in Delafield. The school’s code of conduct bars students, parents and teachers from “participating in immoral sexual activity (defined as any form of touching or nudity for the purpose of evoking sexual arousal apart from the context of marriage between one man and one woman).”

Teachers who violate the policy can be dismissed, and students can be expelled for their parents’ or their own actions. The school’s “Statement of Faith” also speaks against transgender individuals.

Speaking at a Capitol press conference on Feb. 14, Wendy Strout, state director for Human Rights Campaign, a LGBTQ advocacy group, said Hagedorn’s involvement with the school should disqualify him from a seat on the state’s high court.

“If elected, it is clear that Brian Hagedorn would further erode protections for some of our most vulnerable communities,” Strout said. “Wisconsinites could not count on him to uphold their civil rights.”

Hagedorn has also taken criticism in recent months for blog posts he wrote during law school that equated homosexuality to bestiality and were sharply critical of abortion.

The state Supreme Court election will be held on April 2. Hagedorn is facing Judge Lisa Neubauer. Both are running to fill the seat of longtime Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who is retiring.

Republicans Keep Kaepernick off Black History Month Resolution

Republicans in the Wisconsin Senate voted Feb. 13 to remove former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick from a resolution recognizing Black History Month.

The move came over the protests of the chamber’s only two African-American lawmakers, including Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, who said the decision to exclude Kaepernick was emblematic of white privilege.

Kaepernick, who is originally from Milwaukee, was one name among many on a resolution honoring “people of African descent or African-Americans (who) have made measurable differences in their respective industries.”

Kaepernick was an NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who rose to national fame in the last couple of years for his decision to sit, and later to take a knee, during the national anthem. He has said he took the action to protest police brutality in African-American communities.

Taylor challenged GOP lawmakers in the Senate to explain their decision to exclude Kaepernick from the Black History Month resolution, but each senator declined.

Taylor is one of only two African-Americans in the 33-member Wisconsin state Senate. The other, Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, called the decision to omit Kaepernick “insulting” and “degrading.”

“Diversity is needed in this building on the other side,” Johnson said to Republicans.

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