Cancer patient driving force behind Stevens Point pot fine reduction

The recent passage by Stevens Point of an ordinance reducing fines for first offense possession of 5 grams or less of cannabis was the result of a local cancer survivor lobbying city officials, the Stevens Point Journal reports.

One of several follow-up articles since the passage of the ordinance amendment, “Cancer survivor sparks city’s marijuana reform,” details how a bout with leukemia inspired then 26-year-old Ben Kollock, a UW-Stevens Point forestry student, into researching the medical use of cannabis.

Not only did the early detection likely save his life, but it also set him on a course of local activism that resulted in a change of city policy regarding marijuana possession.

The chemotherapy used to fight the disease left Kollock feeling nauseous and anxious. It was culture shock for Kollock, an active person and a forestry student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, to have to remain in isolation at a Marshfield hospital while doctors worked to rebuild his weakened immune system.

To make matters worse, none of the medications doctors had available treated the nausea and anxiety that the chemotherapy caused in Kollock. Doctors told him they would have prescribed him medical marijuana if it were legal in Wisconsin, he said, but without it, there wasn’t much they could do.

That idea led Kollock to start researching marijuana, and the politics and science that surround it.

Kollock came to believe that the severity of the punishment people face for marijuana possession does not align with the severity of the offense. He wanted to see a reform in how people view marijuana. He decided to start at the local level.

When he was back to health, Kollock approached the Stevens Point City Council, which had decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in late 2014. The municipal ordinance allowed first-time offenders to receive written citations carrying $300 fines if they were found in possession of up to 5 grams of marijuana.

Kollock thought the fine was unreasonably high for the offense, and requested in conversations and emails with council members that they consider reducing the fine to $100. In a decision this month, the City Council voted 7-4 to slash the fine.

Kollock’s success shows how local activists can have a big input in pot law reform at the municipal level. For activists interested in helping to reform Wisconsin pot laws on a statewide basis, don’t forget Madison NORML’s upcoming State Capitol Lobby Day on Tuesday, Sept. 15, along with the meeting the evening of Sept. 14 featuring State Reps. Mandela Barnes and Dave Considinr.

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