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Gov. Evers proposes decriminalizing marijuana

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - - Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is proposing decriminalizing marijuana in small amounts and legalizing medical marijuana in his plan for the next state budget. 

We spoke with a doctor at Gundersen Health System and the La Crosse County district attorney to see how this potential law change could affect people in our area.

A midterm referendum showed that 63 percent of La Crosse County voters voted in favor of legalizing, regulating- and taxing recreational marijuana for adults 21 years and older.

Evers talked Monday about the potential medical benefits of marijuana, but one doctor we spoke with says there are a lot of unknowns.

Marilu Bintz a medical doctor with Gundersen Health System and has some concerns about medical marijuana.

“I think medical marijuana may prove over time to have its upsides but it also may prove to have significant downsides,” Bintz said.

For example, Bintz said smoking marijuana is proven to be harmful.

"We already know that there are significant amounts of toxins in marijuana and that's not something that is good for us to inhale,” Bintz said.

She understands people wanting to use it for chronic pain relief, but said other alternatives may be safer.

"I think we have other alternative forms of treatment for those conditions that people are now talking about addressing with medical marijuana,” Bintz said.

Alternative treatments include Ibuprofen, Tylenol, massage therapy, essential oils and meditation, Bintz said.

"Patients have a huge array of options for safer, effective and sustainable pain control,” Bintz said.

In addition to medical marijuana, Evers would like to decriminalize marijuana possession for 25 grams or less. Tim Gruenke, the La Crosse County district attorney said that wouldn't really affect their operations too much since they're already focusing on other issues.

"We've focused a lot more on cases like sexual assault, domestic violence, OWIs and then in the drug cases we focus on meth and heroin where people are dying from it. And severely addicted and its leading to other crimes,” Gruenke said.

Ultimately, Evers said he's doing this because it's what the people want.

 Gundersen said even if medical marijuana is legalized, it's all a case-by-case basis and the most important thing is to talk with your primary care provider so he or she can assess your needs.

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