Should Milwaukee Co. allow personal use of marijuana? Get set to vote in advisory referendum

MILWAUKEE -- The Wisconsin Justice Initiative and other organizations encouraged voters on Thursday, Oct. 25 to vote "yes" on the cannabis legalization referendum on the Nov. 6 Milwaukee County ballot.

Milwaukee County is one of 16 counties and two municipalities around the state holding advisory referenda on various options for cannabis legalization.

The Milwaukee County advisory referendum asks, "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?"

Right now, marijuana and marijuana-related activities are illegal in Wisconsin.

"Send a strong voice, a strong message, to the legislature in Madison that it's time for Wisconsin to join the 21st century and end cannabis prohibition laws," said Craig Johnson of Wisconsin Justice Initiative. "We believe strongly that total legalization is the way to go."

Passion for the use of cannabis, or lack thereof, is found on both sides of the political aisle.

"And one of the things we don't talk about is that it makes it harder for the individual that shouldn't have access to not to have access to it. That's an important part of this conversation," said State Rep. David Bowen. "It makes the next step possible for us to have a real conversation on moving forward with colleagues all over the state."

But not everyone agrees.

"Anything that would make marijuana more readily available we would certainly be against," said Jennifer Harper of Teen Challenge of Wisconsin, a group that has been helping people beat addiction for decades. With roughly a thousand patients a year, Teen Challenge of Wisconsin stresses its familiarity with the issues.

"The wide variety of substances used, but the common denominator seems to be everybody had started just by being introduced to marijuana," Harper said.

While polls show a majority of residents favor legalization, legislative leaders have not allowed bills that would legalize or decriminalize marijuana to come to a hearing.

Wisconsin Justice Initiative officials say the referendum, and similar referenda around the state, will give voters a voice in the matter.