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It’s not complicated. Farmers grow crops. These crops and other items — milk, for instance — are no longer sufficient income sources to keep small family farms viable in Wisconsin. Small farm bankruptcies are skyrocketing. Farmer suicides are as well.

Republican representatives in the Legislature, for the most part, represent rural districts, which is where we find these struggling farmers.

If the GOP cooperated with the Democratic representatives and crafted a cannabis legalization bill that outlined who could grow cannabis for our state, they should draft it in language that allows it only for small family farms and other disadvantaged communities in Wisconsin, areas in Milwaukee and Racine and Native American tribes, for example.

David Krump

Krump

Even if the profit on a small crop of cannabis was only $15,000 per farm, you’d be saving small farms all over Wisconsin, while generating thousands of jobs in the private sector in areas that desperately need these jobs.

Even better, you wouldn’t need to subsidize job creation. The market exists, and it’s a large market indeed. For a family farm, $15,000 or so is not a small amount of additional income to earn annually.

Republicans have a crucial opportunity to cooperate with Democrats and draft and pass a bill similar to what I’m proposing.

Not doing so should be viewed as a disgrace to the farming heritage of this state and an act of abandoning the few remaining small farms to bankruptcy and the accompanying mental illness and suicide rates. Wisconsin dollars feed the other states where cannabis is legal.

How much? Hundreds of millions per year? Maybe a billion untaxed dollars leaving our state to prop up economies in other states, all because of a plant that apparently makes people happy is unseemly to certain Republican representatives? It’s a plant. People consume it. Sounds like farmers should grow it for them.

I refuse to stand on the arguments that we’ll generate X in revenue on legalizing and taxing, nor will I point out how much we’d save in court costs and associated policing activities that could instead focus on the pandemics of heroin and meth in our state. Prohibition has failed. Citizens are smoking cannabis all over this state, rather openly and without shame despite the illegality. To not legalize cannabis in such a way as to benefit small farms and disadvantaged communities misses a major opportunity to lift this state’s poorest, struggling, and often hardest-working folks.

Republicans must change their tune on cannabis, or the Dems will crush them with this issue in the near future. Anything short of legalizing it and specifically authorizing small farmers to be among the few groups allowed to produce cannabis on a commercial scale is a failure in vision and in leadership.

Small farmers grew this state and were a vital part of its economic engine. It’s far beyond time for legislators to save small family farms and grant them the right to grow cannabis immediately. Some farms are staring at weeks until bankruptcy.

Pass the bill and let the farmers get a small crop in this year.

It’s time for the parties to unite to save farms and to save farmers’ lives. The Republicans can save the small farms and the Democrats can put in language to grant growing privileges to disadvantaged communities in larger cities and Native American tribes.

Give this responsibility not to corporations and warehouse growing operations owned by the already wealthy. Give it to the people who most need it, poor communities, and to the people who have grown everything else for the residents of this state and nation for generations, small farmers. Stubborn behavior and adhering to party-line stances endangers lives and the state heritage and its economy.

The question before the GOP at this critical moment is: “Should small farms and poor communities across our state earn money growing this crop, or will we continue to let out-of-state cannabis growers and interstate drug traffickers make off with an obscene amount untaxed Wisconsin dollars on illegal cannabis sales which occur daily?”

Cannabis isn’t a moral issue. It’s an ethical and economic issue. Saving small farms, saving farmers’ lives, and doing all we can for disadvantaged communities is a moral and ethical imperative. Farmers work hard and take great pride in producing quality products. To grow cannabis legally, all farmers need is some land and some freedom.

Some of them still own their land. What they could use right now is some of this freedom that we’re all found of discussing in the abstract. Are laws created as successful deterrents or to punish those we consider in violation of the law? If illegality deterred illegal behavior, we’d not need police or the criminal justice system.

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David Krump works as a freelance environmental consultant, as a farmer, as a campaign manager and consultant, and is a writer with multiple fellowships and awards. He served in public office for four years in the City of La Crosse before returning to running his family’s small farm after his father passed away at a young age. He’s also the director of HOPerations of the rural brewery and taproom under construction, Jenny Wren Brewery & Hopyyard.

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Do you think the Wisconsin Realtors Association or the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce will allow this?

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