Voters in Rock County will be asked in November whether marijuana should be legal for adults in Wisconsin.
On a 14-12 vote, the Rock County Board passed the resolution to add an advisory referendum question to the ballot at its regular meeting Thursday night. The referendum will help state lawmakers gauge the public’s stance on the topic.
Proponents of the referendum said it will give county voters a chance to weigh in on the topic of marijuana legalization. They said holding the referendum doesn’t equate to the board backing legalization.
Others argued there is not enough research on the effects of medicinal or recreational marijuana on society, and children in particular, on which voters can base their decisions.
Despite the opposition, the resolution survived a committee vote and a vote of the full board with no changes. The Nov. 6 referendum will read: “Should cannabis be legalized for adult use, taxed and regulated like alcohol, with the proceeds from the Taxes used for education, healthcare, and infrastructure?”
Voters in Milwaukee County will see a similar referendum on their ballots in November. The Dane County board is also considering a pot legalization referendum.
The board’s vote Thursday night came after two days of committee meetings that featured spirited debate and passionate public support.
On Tuesday, the county board staff committee addressed the resolution. Five members of the public, including two board members, spoke in favor of the referendum at the meeting.
One resident, Tim Thompson, urged the board to vote in favor of the referendum, telling them using marijuana alleviated his alcoholism. Another resident told the board marijuana saved his marriage.
The staff committee passed the resolution 4-3.
On Wednesday night, the board of health considered the resolution. Marie-Noel Sandoval, director of the Rock County Public Health Department, delivered a presentation on national and local marijuana statistics. She showed the committee a one-hour video of a forum on medical, economic and policy results of legalized marijuana to inform the committee before it voted.
“I want this to serve as a starting point,” Sandoval told the committee. “Policy is outweighing science.”
The committee voted to table the resolution, saying it could not approve the measure with such little research, but because the staff committee passed the resolution, the referendum advanced to the county board.
During its full meeting Thursday, Yuri Rashkin, who submitted the resolution, opened the discussion. He told the board current solutions to opioid overdoses were not working, and he pointed to Wisconsin’s neighbors that are either decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana.
In the past month, the Legislature in Michigan approved recreational marijuana legalization for its Nov. 6 ballot, and Illinois loosened its medical marijuana regulations. Canada also became the second country to legalize recreational pot.
“We are not legalizing cannabis tonight,” Rashkin told the board. “That’s the Legislature’s business.”