Voters in three Wisconsin jurisdictions will get the chance to weigh in on marijuana legalization and medical cannabis when the state holds an election next month.
While the advisory questions appearing on ballots are non-binding, meaning they won’t actually change the law, they could help put pressure on lawmakers to act as part of a growing public consensus in the state in support of cannabis reform.
During November’s midterm election, voters in 16 Wisconsin counties and two cities—representing nearly half the state’s population—overwhelmingly approved of marijuana-related advisory questions.
This time around, Wood County, the Village of Egg Harbor and the City of Sturgeon Bay have cannabis referendums on their April 2 ballots.
Here’s the language of the questions:
Wood County: “Should marijuana be legal for medical purposes only and available only by prescription through a medical dispensary?”
Wood County: “Should marijuana be legal for adults, 21 years of age and older, for recreational use to be taxed and regulated like alcohol?”
Village of Egg Harbor: “Do you support the use of marijuana for medical purposes?”
Village of Egg Harbor: “Do you support allowing adults 21 years of age and older to engage in the personal use of marijuana on private property?”
City of Sturgeon Bay: “Do you support the use of cannabis for medical purposes?
City of Sturgeon Bay: “Do you support allowing adults 21 years of age and older to engage in the personal use of cannabis?”
There are also 87 local referenda questions on the ballot across Wisconsin, including binding questions about exceeding school revenue caps and bonds, as well as advisory questions including all-terrain vehicles, marijuana legalization and redistricting.
— Wisconsin Elections (@WI_Elections) March 18, 2019
The votes could help inform state legislative strategy as talk of cannabis reform continues among top lawmakers. Gov. Tony Evers (D) has already included medical marijuana legalization and cannabis decriminalization in his budget proposal, which he said was an achievable policy compared to outright legalization.
He also called for records for low-level possession to be expunged.
“I believe that there are Republicans out there that feel confident that this is something that’s important—not only around the issue of medical marijuana but also decriminalizing small amounts,” he said last month. “It connects the dots with our efforts that we’re going to be having going forward around the issue of criminal justice reform. We feel it’s a good starting place.”
But while Republican Senate and Assembly leaders have expressed some openness to medical cannabis, they were soured by Evers’s inclusion of broader decriminalization in his proposal and would have preferred he work with them to craft narrowly tailored legislation on the topic outside of the budget process.
That said, if local voters continue to pass marijuana ballot questions by solid margins, it is likely that pressure on the legislature to enact some form of reform will grow.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.