Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Committee Okays Referendum on Legalizing Pot

Unanimous vote in favor of November referendum asking to legalize and tax marijuana.

By - May 10th, 2018 03:34 pm
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Marijuana plant. Photo by Jennifer Martin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Marijuana plant. Photo by Jennifer Martin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

A few Milwaukee County Supervisors heard an exuberant and sometimes teary-eyed case for legalizing marijuana, at a committee hearing today on whether to hold a fall referendum on legalization.

The committee on Judiciary, Safety and General Services then voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to include a referendum item on the November election ballot asking whether to allow 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 authored by Supervisor John Weishan, and now heads to the full board for consideration later this month.

Sup. Deanna Alexander voted in favor of the resolution, though not before she attempted to pass an amendment that would put it on the ballot during the August election. Sup. Steven Shea and Sup. Sylvia Ortiz-Velez voiced opposition to this move because of the historically low voter turnout during the August primary elections. The amendment failed on a four-to-one vote, with only Alexander supporting.

The vast majority of those in attendance at the meeting were there to tell their representatives they want legal marijuana and they want this referendum. Well, save for one man who told the committee he thought the legality of using and possessing marijuana was not an issue the state should have domain over in the first place, and therefore he didn’t support the referendum.

A few cities across Wisconsin have already taken action towards reducing the penalty or burden of marijuana prohibition. In Oshkosh, the fine for first time possession of marijuana was reduced from $325 to $200. In Monona, the city council changed the fines and prosecutorial policy of the city to effectively decriminalize personal use of marijuana. There, possession in public or in private is not subject to a fine, but smoking in public still carries a $200 fine. In 2015, the City of Milwaukee lowered the maximum fine for possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana to $50.

But the state still has hard laws on the books for marijuana. Like the rule that a second conviction for marijuana possession is an automatic felony. And once convicted of a felony, individuals lose the right to vote, travel outside the country and own or possess a firearm. And these rights are often accompanied by a host of other troubles that can include difficulty finding employment or permanently being barred from certain jobs.

Sup. Supreme Moore Omokunde told the committee he would also be bringing forward a resolution that calls on the state to decriminalize marijuana. He called for what he termed “retroactive decriminalization” — to apply a new standard of the law to those already convicted of marijuana offense and forgive those crimes.

“When you look at the racial disparities, African Americans are six times more likely to be arrested and imprisoned for marijuana,” Moore noted.

Gretchen Schuldt, executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative, also presented these statistics up to the committee, noting that in Milwaukee the arrest rate for black residents compared to white residents was nine to one, and most of the arrests were made in the city of Milwaukee, north of I-94.

“Apparently people on the south sides and the suburbs do not smoke marijuana,” she said, prompting a chorus of laughter from the room.

One woman that spoke at the hearing told the committee members that she served two years in prison for growing two marijuana plants in her home, which she said were for personal use. As a result she lost her nursing license and has struggled to find employment. She now operates a business selling cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive derivative of industrial hemp that can be used to treat seizure patients.

Others spoke about the medical benefits, or at least their preference over pharmaceuticals, of marijuana. One man explained that he is a survivor of a traumatic brain injury and cannot function on a day-to-day basis without marijuana. Others pointed to the relative harmlessness of marijuana compared to the opioids they were prescribed for pain.

“I can get all the morphine I want, but I can’t get cannabis,” said Mark Kelderman, an advocate who himself is a cancer survivor and living with significant nerve damage.

Many that spoke to the committee were animated with anger that local schools lack the funding they need and that obvious failures of infrastructure maintenance abound, like Milwaukee’s potholed roads; all while state and local governments use taxpayers’ money to arrest and incarcerate marijuana users.

Serendipitously, right after the committee voted on the referendum resolution, and as the crowd poured out of the committee room, they heard a report from Joe Lamers, budget director for the county, on how much it costs to jail a person for one day in the House of Correction, that’s $40.45, and the Criminal Justice Facility, that’s $42.83. Take the cheaper option, the House of Correction: it costs $283 a week, $1,132 a month and $13,591 annually to incarcerate someone. Now, extrapolate those numbers out to those incarcerated for marijuana offenses, and you start to see the source of the legalization advocates’ indignation.

A 2016 Marquette Law School poll found that 59 percent of the Wisconsin residents supported legalization and state regulation of marijuana.

Weishan said this referendum is a move to get the ball rolling on the topic of marijuana prohibition, to “create the momentum so we get people in Madison to actually do their job and do something for the citizens in the state of Wisconsin, and that is finally to legalize and decriminalize marijuana.”

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More about the Legalizing of Marijuana

Categories: MKE County, Politics

8 thoughts on “MKE County: Committee Okays Referendum on Legalizing Pot”

  1. Terry says:

    Let’s join the 40 other U.S. states and all of Canada that have already legalized the medical or reponsible adult use of cannabis. Walker’s Wisconsin is now completely surrounded on all sides by states that have reformed their laws but Career Politician Scott Walker and republicans refuse to even decriminalize or even consider medical cannabis for sick and dying children, cancer patients or our heroic veterans much less consider responsible adult use legislation that most people in Wisconsin want.Wisconsin is now the laughing stock of the cpuntry! Walker and republicans are ignoring the will of the majority of Wisconsinites and we must vote them all out of office in November!

    Career Politician Scott Walker and republicans have ignored the solid bipartisan majority of Wisconsinites who want cannabis legalized, taxed and regulated. Walker and republicans have kept Wisconsin mired in the failed policies of yesteryear while the modern, civilized world has moved on without Wisconsin. It’s time to end the abject failure of prohibition in Wisconsin. Let’s support the free market not the black market anymore. Let’s support basic civil rights for all Wisconsinites not just the drunks and pill poppers. Legalize, tax and regulate!

    Dump Walker 2018!
    Dump ALL republicans 2018!

  2. LenaTaylorNeedsToResign says:

    Yeah baby! Get those zoned-out pothead Dems to the polls!! On the support side, we’ve got “Tire Slasher” Supreme Moore Omokunde, worthless son of the even more worthless Gwen Moore, and Gretchen Schuldt, lover of all things criminal and neighborhood-wrecking.

    With winners like that on your side, why would you NOT toke up and tune out, right??

  3. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    As a clinical pharmacist in rehab, for 50 years that watched people in their 40’s, 50’s, with destroyed bodies from recreational drugs, watching them die was horrible.
    Then we see the overdoses setting records in Wisconsin this year, then over dose deaths, ruined families, lives, all from recreational drugs, always including Pot.
    Add pot to the problems we have with alcohol?. Stated as Gateway drug by the CC, FDA, Really stupid.
    Colorado has horrible problems since they legalized Pot even to the point that the Co. Gov. said it was big mistake. The Drug DUI’s up 66% since they legalized POT, 1/3 of DUI’s according to lcoal police in Waukesha are drug related, deaths.
    So add the dead people, DUI’s, Long term deaths, to the overdose deaths which are way up, so is crime .
    Junkies need money to buy drugs. Drug hustlers?? Still there just undercutting the legal prices and now selling Heroin/Fentanyl.
    Medical study shows that kids under 18 using pot, retards brain growth. Pot head syndrome is real. Long time users have problems. 10% do get addicted but many more get dependent. Think the companies want tot hire Potheads?
    Pot heads on this site will say they have been doing Pot for 20 years and they are not addicted?? Sure? What Dope heads.
    Pot heads, addicts, drunks are responsible fro most of the problems in society and you wish to add to that? For a few bucks for the govt. to spend?? Send our kids, mostly young women to the morgue where they are stacked up??
    Bob Dohnal, RPh
    We are forming statewide committee to fight this led by Tommy Thompson, Sue Lynch, Rep. Janel Brandtjen and many others. Go to Facebook: Wisconsin Conservative Digest and sign up.
    Yoiu want to buy this in Wsicsonin? Isn’t it bad enoguht he drug wr we hve gooin on in Inenr city and the shootigns. The Left is nuts.

  4. Terry says:

    Career Politician Scott Walker and republicans have made Wisconsin the most backwards regressive behind the times state in the entire country. The rest of America laughs at how dumb Wisconsin is now. Walker and republicans are liars and schemers and need to be voted out in November so we can move Wisconsin FORWATD again, not backwards anymore.

    Dump Walker
    Legalize cannabis

    https://www.cheatsheet.com/culture/these-states-have-the-worst-medical-marijuana-policy-in-america.html/?a=viewall

  5. Caligula says:

    Leave it to Walker and all the other crazy far right wing Republicans to advocate for LESS freedom and LESS personal responsibilty! Too stupid to even make this up. I thought they wete for more freedom and personal responsibilty not more Big Government intrusion? I guess Walker and Republicans were just lying. I wonder why? Private prison industry lobbyists get to them? Big Pharma donors buy them off? Maybe law enforcment Unions addicted to federal marijuana war grants and draconian civil forfeitures? Who knows but one thing is for sure, Walker and Republicans are not representing the majority of Wisconsinites who demand that marijuana be legalized, taxed and regulated! Vote out Walker! Vote out Republicans in November!

  6. Tom says:

    LEGALIZE IT!!

  7. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Sure, we had 401 overdose deaths in Milwaukee last year, more than car kills. Ten times as many actual overdoses not killing people.
    Some car kills cause of DUI’s people on Pot. Over 1000 in state? Legalize recreational drugs, kill our kids, mostly girls and young Blacks
    Put thousands of our people in a haze that cannot get jobs? Briliant lefty idea that is ruing Colorado, California

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