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That doesn’t mean that the DEA wouldn’t get involved if you were growing non-medical marijuana and thousands of pounds of it. It just means that if it’s OK with California, then the federal government is not going to get involved. That’s something you can do without a new law and going to Congress. You just give your attorney general new priorities and new instructions.
Shepherd: Michigan voters approved a medical marijuana program on Nov. 4. How were they able to pass it?
Bienenstock: Through the ballot initiative process, which is the same way that Prop 215 passed in California [in 1996]. There have been other states where the state legislature has taken up this issue. This is an issue where the government has not been enacting the will of the people, which is why this initiative process has been created in states. This passed with 63% of the vote in Michigan.
Obviously if something is that popular, then the question is, “Why isn’t the state legislature taking up this measure?” And that’s where you see people saying that this is what they want and then putting it on the ballot. There was plenty of spirited opposition. But in the end, people know what they want. And people in America recognize that medical marijuana really does help people and they’re willing to push their government in the right direction, which is a great sign.
Shepherd: Popular opinion definitely favors approving medical marijuana. In Wisconsin, reliable polling shows that as many as 80% of people in Wisconsin want a program.
Bienenstock: Let’s be honest about this. The opponents of medical marijuana are scared to give any ground on this issue because it’s propping up a larger war on drugs that is the elephant in the room. The war on drugs is a tremendous failure. It’s a tremendous waste of resources. And it has unintended consequences that are worse than the problem it’s meant to address. [Opponents of medical marijuana are] less concerned with whether chronically ill people are getting their medicine than they are with continuing to prop up this huge war on drugs.
Shepherd: In the book there’s a list of 420 things to do when you’re high. What are some of your personal favorites?
Bienenstock: Playing ping-pong. It’s a huge passion of mine and of some people on the staff here. The two activities definitely go well together. I do play better after a couple of puffs.
There’s another item on the list that says, “Invent a milkshake.” And I’ve certainly been known to enjoy that. […] But the No. 1 thing you should do when you’re stoned is to join NORML [the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws] or an organization like it that’s right for you. One of the best things you can do when you get stoned is to get involved in changing these laws. Because it does feel good to get stoned and it does feel really good to work toward bringing that freedom to everyone.
(To read the full interview with Bienenstock, go to www.expressmilwaukee.com.) What’s your take? Write: firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.