Wisconsin-based tribal group ramps up campaigns to legalize Medical Marijuana

Wisconsin-based tribal group ramps up campaigns to legalize Medical Marijuana

Uniting Wisconsin Tribes: A New Push for Cannabis Legalization.

After years of supporters failing to legalize cannabis in Wisconsin, Rob Pero is starting to unite tribal leaders in the state for a new lobbying and campaigning effort.

“Wisconsin is landlocked with a hypocrisy of prohibition,” he said, referring to surrounding states that have legalized cannabis.

Pero founded the Indigenous Cannabis Industry Association in 2022, which recently held its second annual Wisconsin Cannabis Industry and Policy Summit at the Ho-Chunk Casino and Hotel in Baraboo.

“The top takeaway from the event was the time to take action is now,” Pero said in a statement. “The welfare of our communities are at stake while we wait for policy reform to provide clear access to cannabis for our communities in need, including Wisconsin’s veteran population, but also people of all ages who seek relief.”

He said the ICIA and its member tribes have agreed to launch a lobbying and campaigning effort this year to convince lawmakers and the public why medical cannabis should be legalized.

“There are people who need this medicine, regardless of political affiliation,” Pero said.

Advocates tout cannabis as an alternative relief for veterans with pain from wounds or post-traumatic stress disorder, but the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs prohibits its distribution because it’s still classified by the federal government as a Schedule 1 drug with no accepted medical use.

But more tribal leaders are seeing the financial and medical benefits of legalizing cannabis in Wisconsin.

The newest tribe to sign a resolution to join the ICIA and take up its cause to legalize cannabis is the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe Nation in northern Wisconsin.

“Cannabis and hemp provide new opportunities and new forms of revenue to consider beyond our casino revenue,” said Lac du Flambeau Tribal President John D. Johnson Sr. in a statement.

“We have a growing population and we may need more than our casino revenue in the future to provide for our community. This could be another revenue source that would create more job opportunities than we already offer to tribal and non-tribal people as the region’s leading economic engine and employer.”

In counties with tribal reservations, the tribe is often one of the largest, if the largest, employer in the county and economic driver.

Lac du Flambeau joins the Ho-Chunk, St. Croix Ojibwe and Sokaogon Mole Lake Ojibwe tribes in Wisconsin that are members of the ICIA and supporters of legalizing cannabis. Tribes in Minnesota, Michigan and South Dakota also are members.

In last year’s State of the Tribes Address to legislators in Madison, Mole Lake Chairman Robert Van Zile urged lawmakers to legalize cannabis in Wisconsin.

He told the Green Bay Press-Gazette that the Hannahville Potawatomi Tribe, about 100 miles east of Mole Lake in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, earns about 90% of its $5 million annual cannabis business from Wisconsin residents.

Van Zile said Wisconsin is losing tens of millions dollars to surrounding states where cannabis is legal, including Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota.

Wisconsin Legislative Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said last month, two weeks before the ICIA summit, that an effort to legalize medical marijuana was likely dead for the legislative session.

“Sure, some felt defeated,” Pero said responded to Vos’ statement. “But others are energized.”

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Region: Wisconsin

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