Hundreds of people will converge on Madison today in an attempt to convince lawmakers that marijuana should be legal in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin should not follow the recent example of Washington and Colorado and make it legal to use marijuana, even for medical purposes. There is a reason pot is, at least under federal law, a controlled substance.
It is, as police and mental health experts call it, a "gateway drug" that often leads to experimentation with more dangerous illegal drugs, particularly among young people.
And its benefits for medicinal purposes also are open to interpretation. We believe, with many medical experts, that there are safer and more conventional medicines available for the ailments that marijuana often is "prescribed" to treat, such as glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and even some forms of cancer.
We understand there is much scientific debate on the relative merits of medicinal marijuana use. Both sides are relatively entrenched in their positions, and it becomes increasingly difficult to change minds on the topic. We believe traditional medicines are at least as - if not more - effective than marijuana.
We should not open the sluice gate of medicinal marijuana use in Wisconsin based on scientific "evidence" that remains unproven.
Nor should we legalize the drug for use by the general population when police and health experts say it would create more problems already associated with illegal drugs, such as crime, truancy and poor school performance.
Recent reports by state health officials indicate that use of tobacco products among teenagers is declining in Wisconsin. Legalizing marijuana could serve to reverse that healthy trend and create additional social problems associated with the drug.
Leaders of the state branch of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) say change is in the air and that Wisconsin should get on a bandwagon that already sees 18 states with some kind of legal marijuana.
The fact is that it remains illegal under federal law to grow, possess or sell the drug. The federal government and state laws often are at odds on marijuana legislation. Those anomolies should be resolved before any more states - including Wisconsin - legalize marijuana.
We believe NORML has every right to lobby for reform and legalization of marijuana, but the time is not right in Wisconsin to take that dramatic step.