Monday, November 30, 2009

Joint hearing

It’s no surprise that Sen. Jon Erpenbach and I have heard a few wisecracks about scheduling a “joint public hearing” on our bill to allow suffering patients the option of medicinal marijuana.

But when the state Senate and Assembly team up for a hearing – it’s called a joint hearing, no escaping it. And that is what the health committees of the two bodies are doing on the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana bill on Dec. 15 at the Capitol in room 412 E at 10 am.

We expect to hear from folks representing some of the nonprofit groups that back our bill, such as the Epilepsy Foundation, HOPE the hospice and palliative experts association, Wisconsin Nurses Association and the ACLU.

Some national groups will fly to Wisconsin, including the Marijuana Policy Project. The Drug Policy Alliance will be represented by Daniel Abrahamson, and if his last name is familiar, that’s no coincidence. He happens to be Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson’s son.

Pot jokes aside, this joint hearing is a positive sign that this bill is being seriously considered and debated in the Capitol. And that's no joking matter for patients who are suffering.

I’m haunted by stories I’ve heard of a suffering mother who had to send her teen to the street to illegally purchase marijuana so she can keep down food or ease her pain.

I expect we’ll hear from quite a few patients suffering the devastating impact of such debilitating and painful diseases as cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS and post traumatic stress disorder.

They highlight two reasons for this bill: common sense health care and compassion.

Many of Wisconsin’s newspapers, including the Wisconsin State Journal, the Appleton Post Crescent, the Wausau Daily Herald, have editorialized in favor of our bill and we appreciate their support.

I was particularly struck by today’s column from Capital Times editor emeritus Dave Zwiefel: “The time for Wisconsin to become the 15th state to allow patients to use pot to make their lives a bit more comfortable is long past due. My own father, who was suffering mightily from the pains of pancreatic cancer, found some relief from marijuana I was able to illegally purchase for him in the last weeks of his life.”

That’s why we need to pass this bill.

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