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Marijuana Referendums Hits Wisconsin Local Ballots

Simple possession of small amounts of cannabis in Wisconsin can still result in jail time. (rexmedlin/Pixabay)
Simple possession of small amounts of cannabis in Wisconsin can still result in jail time. (rexmedlin/Pixabay)
October 19, 2018

MADISON, Wis. – On Election Day, voters in 16 Wisconsin counties will get to weigh-in on a range of questions dealing with marijuana legalization.

The pressure to have a state law legalizing pot is coming from local municipalities taking a grassroots approach to influencing legislators. It first began with progressive Dane County, home of the state capital where County Clerk Scott McDonell says the issue is so popular, they've already passed approvals for medical marijuana.

"This one is explicitly recreational and it passes with 70-80 percent,” says McDonell. “What's interesting this time is the other counties around the state, having a similar referendum and that's kind of what's different this time."

The referendums aren't binding, however the growing interest in legalization across the midwest might shift attitudes. Gov. Scott Walker opposes legalization, but his Democratic challenger Tony Evers supports medical marijuana.

Polls are starting to show a steady shift. A Marquette University survey of likely voters in August found 61 percent of Wisconsonites favored legalization, with only 36 percent opposed.

McDonell says people are more comfortable with the idea.

"What's different is the attitude toward marijuana nationally now that it's available in Colorado and California and now Canada, I think it's just an attitude shift going on around the county," says McDonell.

Some Republicans claim the referendums are a ploy to turn out Democrat votes, however McDonell says he thinks turn out will be high just for the general excitement around the senate and governor's race.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - WI