Thursday morning, in a meeting of the County Board of Supervisors, a resolution was passed by a vote of 15-1 that will add an advisory referendum question about marijuana to Milwaukee County ballots this November. On November 6, 2018, Milwaukee County voters will 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 initially (and unanimously) approved by the Committee on Judiciary, Safety and General Services in a meeting on May 10.

The resolution was drafted by Supervisor John F. Weishan, Jr. At Thursday’s meeting, Weishan noted that previous testimony was “impressive” in favor of the resolution, and that the resolution’s intent was to create a “groundswell of public opinion” in hopes of forcing state legislators to eventually take up the matter of legalization. “We need to get them moving on these things today,” Weishan said.

Likewise, Supervisor Anthony Staskunas called out “a very small group of legislators” in Madison who had killed previous talk of legalization. “I’m hoping this referendum might urge these legislators to do the right thing,” Staskunas said.

As he did in the May 10 meeting, Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde emphasized the importance of retroactive decriminalization. Imagining the seemingly inevitable day when marijuana would be legal in Wisconsin, Omokunde lamented the “rich white men making their next millions” on marijuana, while “there will still be predominately black and brown folks” in prison for the drug. Omokunde promised future legislation on the matter.

Supervisor Patti Logsdon, meanwhile, was the sole “nay” vote in Thursday’s meeting. She cited concerns from her constituents as the reason for her vote.

Though only an advisory referendum (Supervisor Jim Luigi Schmitt noted that such things “have historically not been worth much”), 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:

A 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.

About The Author

Matt Wild
Co-Founder and Editor

In his spare time, Matt Wild enjoys collecting 8-bit Nintendo games (emulation is for creeps) and fondly remembering the time Milwaukee weatherman Vince Condella caused a stir at his Catholic grade school by showing up with an earring. He lives on Milwaukee's East Side.