Thursday morning, in a meeting of the Committee on Judiciary, Safety and General Services, a resolution was unanimously passed that will add an advisory referendum question about marijuana to Milwaukee County ballots this November. On November 6, 2018, Milwaukee County voters may be asked to vote YES or NO on this question:
“Do you favor allowing adults 21 years of age and older to engage in the personal use of marijuana, while also regulating commercial marijuana-related activities, and imposing a tax on the sale of marijuana?”
The resolution was drafted by Supervisor John F. Weishan, Jr., and approved Thursday by a vote of 5-0. The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors will next take up the resolution on May 24. If approved, the County Clerk will add the referendum question to all Milwaukee County ballots in the November election.
“It’s timely, it’s appropriate, and I think citizens of Milwaukee County should have a chance to weigh in on this,” Weishan said during his opening remarks. He also touched on the low addiction levels of marijuana, the potential economic benefits, and the disproportionate rate of African American arrests and incarcerations because of marijuana.
“It’s time for Wisconsin to join the many states across the country that have legalized marijuana and benefited from the revenue that comes with commercial sale and taxation of one of America’s largest cash crops,” Weishan said in an earlier news release.
Weishan’s points were backed up and expanded upon by 17 members of the public who spoke in favor of the resolution. The speakers ranged from card-carrying NORML members to great-grandmothers. Only one man opposed the resolution, though he seemed mostly concerned about the government having any say in what we put or don’t put in our bodies, man.
Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde also spoke in favor of the resolution, and brought up both decriminalization and retroactive decriminalization—issues he felt deserved to be tackled separately.
A late-in-the-meeting amendment by Supervisor Deanna Alexander to place the referendum on ballots for the August election was defeated.
Though only an advisory referendum, the resolution represents Milwaukee’s ever-changing views (and laws) concerning marijuana. Statewide, a 2016 Marquette University Law School Poll found 59 percent of Wisconsin voters believed marijuana should be legalized.
Here’s the full text of the resolution:
providing for an advisory referendum on the November 6, 2018, election ballot to measure public opinion on allowing adults 21 years of age and older to engage in the personal use of marijuana, while also regulating commercial marijuana-related activities, and imposing a tax on the sale of marijuana
WHEREAS, criminalizing marijuana use has failed to curb its use and more than 100 million Americans say they have used marijuana; and
WHEREAS, 59 percent of Wisconsinites in a 2016 poll said that marijuana should be “fully legalized and regulated like alcohol”, and recent polls show a majority of Americans favor legalization of adult recreational use of marijuana; and
WHEREAS, the Wisconsin State Legislature has failed to act on legislation to legalize and regulate marijuana and has not allowed hearings on such legislation; and
WHEREAS, an estimate by the Congressional Research Service suggests that replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation could yield $6.8 billion in federal excise taxes alone; and
WHEREAS, Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington have legalized adult personal use of marijuana and regulate the production, distribution, and sale of marijuana, and Vermont and the District of Columbia have legalized limited personal possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults; and
WHEREAS, legalizing and taxing marijuana could significantly increase state and local revenue; and
WHEREAS, the time law enforcement spends enforcing existing marijuana laws and ordinances negatively impacts the time available to solve more serious crimes and apprehend more dangerous criminals; and
WHEREAS, felony second offense marijuana charges are disproportionately issued against African-American males in Milwaukee County, continuing a pattern of racially biased justice system outcomes with lifelong negative impacts on those convicted and on their families; and
WHEREAS, marijuana prohibition makes product quality control and sales regulation impossible, leaving marijuana sellers free to target children as potential customers and to peddle potentially adulterated products; and
WHEREAS, the lack of a dispute resolution system for disputes in the illicit marijuana trade inevitably leads to violence as disputes arise; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED, by the County Board of Supervisors of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, as follows:
Section 1. Referendum Election. The County Clerk is hereby directed to call an advisory referendum election to be held in the County at the regularly scheduled election to be held November 6, 2018, for the purpose of submitting to the qualified electors of the county the proposition of whether the State of Wisconsin should legalize and regulate the recreational use of marijuana in Wisconsin. The referendum shall be held, noticed, and conducted following the procedures set forth in Section 59.52 (25) of the Wisconsin Statutes.
Section 2. Official Referendum Ballot Form. The ballot to be used at the referendum election shall be prepared in accordance with the provisions of Sections 5.64 (2) and 7.08 (1)(a) of the Wisconsin Statutes. The ballot shall be substantially in the form attached hereto as Exhibit A.; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Department of Administrative Services is authorized and directed to process an appropriation transfer of $15,000 from Org. 1800-1945 – Appropriation for Contingencies to an allocated contingency account within the same org unit to reserve monies for the Election Commission to offset the additional costs of the advisory referendum; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the County Clerk may request the transfer of these funds through an appropriation transfer after the actual referendum expenses are calculated and a determination as to whether the additional funds are necessary for the Election Commission to achieve a balanced budget for 2018.