On April 20, many Wisconsinites celebrated a holiday in a way that has been deemed criminal by our Legislature.
Our neighbors in Illinois and Michigan celebrated this same holiday freely. If you don’t know by now, I am referring to the holiday of 4/20 – a day on which people all over the world celebrate the incredible plant that is cannabis.
The criminalization of cannabis dates back to the 1900s after the Mexican Revolution. While cannabis was popularly used in medicines in the United States, Mexican immigrants called it “marihuana.” People in the United States used this “new,” unfamiliar drug as a way to demonize and arrest immigrants.
That criminalization stands today, and the ways those laws are enforced remain to be different depending on one’s race. Black Wisconsinites are four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white Wisconsinites, despite similar rates of consumption.
Cannabis should be legalized and past offenses should be expunged for these reasons alone – but there’s more. Cannabis was a popular medical drug before its criminalization. In states where it is legal, cannabis is used to help patients with a wide variety of ailments without the side effects that often come with prescription drugs.
This issue is so important to so many Wisconsinites and it should be legalized.
Bennett Shapiro, La Crosse
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