Medical marijuana gaining bipartisan support in Wisconsin; local businesses prepare for legislationSubmitted: 01/03/2020
Peter Dubois
Peter Dubois

Medical marijuana gaining bipartisan support in Wisconsin; local businesses prepare for legislation
WISCONSIN - 2020 marked the start of recreational marijuana sales in Illinois, and the second year of legal weed in Michigan.

Meanwhile, the drug is still illegal in the Badger State, despite support from a majority of its residents.

A recent push for new marijuana laws in Wisconsin could impact local businesses.

Ken Majeski owns The CBD Store in Tomahawk. He sells products derived from marijuana, but they have no psychoactive properties. CBD doesn't get you high, but Majeski says it has some health benefits.

"People use it for back pain, sciatica, headaches, menstrual cramps," said Majeski. "I use it myself for tendonitis." 

Majeski is a strong supporter of medical marijuana legalization.

"I don't see much difference between alcohol and marijuana," said Majeski.

He says Wisconsin is behind the curve on the controversial issue.

"We passed medical marijuana referendums by a huge margin," said Majeski. "If that doesn't put pressure on our legislators, I'm not sure having states nearby having it legal will put pressure on them."

However, Wisconsin has seen a push for marijuana legislation on both sides of the political aisle. Last month, Republican State Representative Mary Felzkowski introduced a bill that would legalize medical marijuana for people with specific illnesses and conditions.

"I'm a firm believer in it," said Rep. Felzkowski. "I went through a bad bout of cancer a few years ago, and I would have loved to have had it for some of the afflictions that I had."

Although the bill was shut down, Felzkowski says it's a step in the right direction.

"We would really like to get a committee hearing and start the conversation because there's a lot of misinformation out there," said Rep. Felzkowski.

If medical marijuana were to become legal in Wisconsin, only so many people would be allowed to sell it based on demand. Majeski says he will be one of the first to apply for a license to sell medical marijuana if it ever becomes legal.

"I'm not sure a store like mine could exist and be viable as a CBD only store in a state that has medical marijuana," said Majeski.

The DEA lists marijuana as a schedule one drug, among the likes of heroin and LSD. While representative Felzkowski doesn't support the legalization of recreational marijuana, she thinks it should be decriminalized at the federal level.

"Fines and penalties are one thing, but to make it a felony or misdemeanor, I struggle with that," said Felzkowski.

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NORTHWOODS - Before voters could fill out a ballot, they had to disinfect.

"Earlier last week, every polling place received supplies from the Wisconsin Election Commission," Vilas County clerk Dave Alleman said. "This box of supplies included sanitizer, included wipes, included some masks."

Those supplies were put to good use at polls around the Northwoods, on the advice of public health departments.

"They put a lot of measures in place to help control the environment so that people can stay safe," said Judy Burrows, a public information officer with the Marathon County Health Department.

Officials across the state have been encouraging people to stay home for almost a month, but election day left them feeling conflicted.

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NORTHWOODS - With millions of Americans now forced to work from home to slow down the spread of the Coronavirus, the toll on the country's internet infrastructure has never been greater.

Strains on wireless networks are feared now more than ever.

"It's just been a very very busy time for us. It's kind of a love hate relationship where we love the fact that we are so busy but we hate the reasons why we are busy," said Co-Founder Paul Osterman.

Due to the safer at home order and the Coronavirus outbreak, Northwoods Connect has seen a huge spike over its wireless networks.

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WAUSAU - Justin Borger voted for the first time Tuesday. He wished it wasn't in the middle of a pandemic.

"I just turned 18 a couple months ago," said Borger. "So, I figured why not?"

He said he was worried for the health of his older relatives.

"For my grandparents and the older people I know, I'm a little bit worried," said Borger. "So, I try to stay away from them and social distance to try and keep them safe."

The hockey-rink-turned-polling place in Marathon Park accommodated Borger. This included routine sanitization, plastic screens, and clean pens. About half of the people inside wore masks.

Chief Inspector Jack Frederick said there were fewer people today than usual.

"We're making people stay six feet apart in the lines, which there haven't been much of today," said Frederick. "[There's been] a lot of absentee ballots, but not a lot of foot traffic. Not as much as normal that's for sure."

Borger successfully voted for the first time. He said he felt safe doing it.

"It was fun," said Borger. "I enjoyed it. I was a little bit confused wandering around in there, but I got the hang of it in the end and I'm glad I came out and voted today."

Results from Tuesday's election will not be available until Monday, April 13.

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MADISON - The number of deaths from the coronavirus in Wisconsin increased by 15 as reported Tuesday as voters were casting ballots in person at the polls statewide, despite an order to stay at home to avoid spreading the highly contagious disease.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported that deaths increased from 77 on Monday to 92 on Tuesday. The overall number of confirmed cases rose from 2,440 to 2,578.

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- Wisconsin's chaotic primary may just be the beginning. Both major parties are preparing for a months-long, state-by-state legal fight over how citizens can safely cast their ballots should the coronavirus outbreak persist through November's election.

The outcome of the court battles - expected to litigate mail-in voting rules, voter identification requirements and safe access to polls - may have a significant impact on how many people turn out to vote in hundreds of elections across the country between now and November, including the race for the White House. It will likely play out in key presidential battlegrounds amid an already roiling debate over voting rights and protecting access to the ballot.

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WAUSAU - Aspirus is the latest health system to start lab testing for coronavirus. Not just swabbing;  actual testing. Officials say 40 tests have been run so far, all coming back negative.

In a news conference Monday,  Aspirus officials said the in-house lab is only testing healthcare workers or patients who required hospitalization. They say any other potential COVID specimens are sent to Mayo Clinic.

Molecular Technical Specialist Kate Drewer is the only person performing the testing at this time. She was able to create the test on her own.

"[Kate] has put in a lot of time, a lot of effort," said Aspirus official Jesse Tischer. "Essentially single-handedly, with support around her, but single-handedly bringing the test to the community of Wausau. And without her, we would not have the test available."

Drewek does testing in two batches everyday. Turnaround time is three to four hours.

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