Racine County and City of Racine residents could get a chance to voice their opinion on whether the state should legalize marijuana for recreational and medicinal uses during the fall election.
Three referenda — two from Racine County and one by the City of Racine — will likely be considered by those voting bodies over the coming weeks.
Racine City alderman John Tate II (District 3) issued a press release Sunday stating that he submitted language for a non-binding referendum for City residents to vote on Nov. 6. The proposed city referendum contains the following language:
Do you support cannabis being legalized for adult and medical use, taxed and regulated like alcohol, with the proceeds from the taxes used to fund public education, health care and infrastructure in Wisconsin?
Tate wants to also “open a new door for members of our community to manage pain and ailments” and allow Racine residents to “send a clear message” to state leaders.
“As the representative of the Third District and a member of the Racine Common Council, I am honored to introduce this referendum, which is an important step towards ending the crisis levels of incarceration seen in our state and across the country for non-violent drug offenses,” said Alderman Tate II, Chair of the Public Works and Services Committee.
The City of Racine decriminalized marijuana possession of 25 grams or less in 1990 by making it a municipal ordinance violation as long as the package was for personal use. The fine is $200.
Racine Police Chief Art Howell wants to see law enforcement have a strong voice in the conversation.
“Any effort to legalize marijuana must be vigorously vetted from many perspectives (most notable, from a public safety perspective),” he said.
The city referendum will be considered in the Public Works and Services Committee on Tuesday, but it would still need final approval from the Common Council to earn a spot on the ballot. If City of Racine and Racine County residents pass the advisory-only referenda, it won’t result in a new city ordinance.
Racine County residents may also weigh-in on the issue
The exact language has not been decided but it is expected to be released over the next few weeks. One would ask residents whether cannabis should be legal to use by adults. The other would ask whether it should be legal for medical use, Maldonado said.
Once the final language has been drafted, the Racine County Health and Human Development Committee would make a recommendation to the Racine County Board of Supervisors. Maldonado said he anticipates support from the Racine County Board on letting residents voice their opinion on the issue.
“We think it’s in good shape,” he said. “We’ve talked to some supervisors. And we believe that if we bring enough people to speak on it we’ll be able to get it on the ballot. Most people we’ve talked to already have an indifference about it. They are not for or against it, but they wouldn’t stop it (the referenda) is the way they phrased it.”
All three referenda would be advisory and non-binding, which means the city and county would not enact their own ordinances but would act as a signal to the state to take up the issue.
“Our goal is legalization,” Maldonado said. “We want to send a loud message to the State of Wisconsin on this.”
Nine states (and Washington, D.C.) have legalized marijuana for recreational use and 30 states have legalized it for medical use. Wisconsin is among 20 states where smoking marijuana for any purpose is illegal.
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