By Jerad McHenry, Staff Writer for Wisconsin Election Watch,
MADISON -Marijuana may achieve high margins at the ballot box next April in Dane County. The second largest county in Wisconsin and the seat of state government may not express their support for legalized recreational pot use. Instead it may receive a public vote.
Dane County Supervisors Leland Pan and Kyle Richmond introduced the advisory referendum at a County Board Meeting on December 6th.
The referendum would specifically ask whether county residents would support the Wisconsin Legislature legalizing marijuana use.
Pan said “I believe most Dane County residents and most Wisconsinites understand that criminalizing marijuana is a massive waste of law enforcement, resources, and infringement on personal liberty. We are giving them a chance to say so with this referendum, loud and clear.”
The measure has been endorsed by Nate Petreman, president of the Madison chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
In a press release Petreman said “put the question before the people. I urge our representatives in state government to listen to what the people say.”
Wisconsin Counties Association Government Affairs Director Kyle Christianson said “it isn’t uncommon for counties to pass resolutions that may be unique to their individual county or their constituents,” and he additionally commented that Dane County is the only county in the state he knows of that is addressing marijuana through a ballot measure.
If a referendum to legalize marijuana passes the board’s Executive Committee and the full county board, the measure would show up on the ballot for the spring general election held in Arpil 2014.
In 2010, the county approved legalizing medical marijuana by a margin of 75 percent. Just like the proposed referendum, the 2010 referendum was an advisory referendum as well.
Advisory referendums have no effect as law. They simply gauge public sentiment on policy issues.
Support for the referendum in Dane County comes after Illinois approved medicinal marijuana and Washington and Colorado legalized recreational marijuana use.
In a scathing editorial published in the Waterloo/Marshall Courier (a Dane County paper), the measure was described as a “Christmas present” to the county’s liberal political base.
They went on to say “the longer Dane County leaders continue to ignore the local economy without some sort of action — and continue to focus attention on these do-nothing referenda — the longer the county’s economy will remain in a funk. Dane County Supervisors need to focus on legislation that will get people back to work — not invest in do-nothing referenda that will send more people into local grocery and convenience stores to satisfy the munchies.”
It is important to note that federal law including the Controlled Substances Act outlaws Marijuana. As such, some pro-canabis activists and organizations have expressed fear of federal law enforcement interfering with marijuana use in the states that legalize it or relax restrictions.