Wisconsin Counties to Vote on Marijuana Referendum

woman submitting her vote

Several Wisconsin counties will vote on marijuana referendums this November, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Voters in Dane County, Milwaukee, La Crosse, and Rock Counties will have advisory referendums on their ballots for the election on Nov.6. The referendums will ask voters if recreational marijuana should be legal for adults 21 years of age and older.

Several other counties in Wisconsin will have referendums on the ballot that ask the voters if medical marijuana should be legal. Brown, Clark, Forest, Kenosha, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Marquette, Portage, and Sauk Counties will all have referendums that focus on legalizing medical marijuana. The city of Waukesha will also have a referendum that asks voters if medical marijuana should be legal.

Eau Claire County will place several referendums on the upcoming ballot for the November election. The questions will ask voters if medical marijuana should be legal as well as whether recreational marijuana should be legal. Questions about taxing marijuana will also be on the referendum.

City of Racine Includes Decriminalization Referendum

In the city of Racine, voters will have an additional question on the ballot that asks if marijuana should be decriminalized. The racial disparities among marijuana arrests in the state are outrageous. The Wisconsin Justice Initiative found that between 2015 and 2016, 86 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession in Milwaukee County were black.

At least 70 percent of the marijuana possession cases filed in Milwaukee were filed against black people even though white people and black people consume marijuana at the same rate. More than 50 percent of the pot arrests in Madison were also of black people, despite only being 7 percent of the population.

Polls show that the majority of voters in Wisconsin approve of legalizing marijuana. A Marquette Law School Poll found that 61 percent of voters said marijuana should be legal and regulated in the same manner as alcohol. Thirty-six percent of voters were opposed to marijuana legalization.

The referendums will not automatically legalize marijuana if they are approved but could serve as motivation for the state legislators to listen to their constituents and prompt them into action. Eric Marsch is the executive director of the Southeastern Wisconsin NORML and says that the advisory referendums will reveal public opinion in the state and should convince the lawmakers to legalize and tax the drug.

"I hope the legislators respect the will of the people in their districts when they learn the results," said Marsch. Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) agrees and said the referendums should at the very least convince lawmakers to approve a statewide advisory referendum on marijuana legalization.

Legalizing and taxing marijuana could be quite lucrative for the state. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue estimates that legalizing marijuana would earn the state $138 million in tax revenue alone by the year 2021 while also boosting the economy and creating jobs.

Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) supports legalizing marijuana and believes that prohibition drives consumers to the black market and increases racial inequalities in drug arrests. "The most dangerous thing about marijuana in Wisconsin is that it is illegal," she said.

Sargent introduced a bill to legalize recreational and medical marijuana in 2014 but was unsuccessful. Sargent says that she will re-introduce the legislation to legalize marijuana again in January once the Legislature begins its next session. She believes that the anticipated results of the Nov. 6 referendum will prompt legislators in the state to co-sponsor her next bill to legalize marijuana in Wisconsin. If voters in Wisconsin want the state to legalize marijuana, they will need to get out and vote on Nov. 6.