Kenosha County voters will have a voice come November on whether Wisconsin should allow access to medical marijuana.
The County Board voted 13-8 Tuesday night to place the question on the Nov. 6 general election ballot in the form of an advisory referendum.
It will read: “Should the state of Wisconsin allow individuals with debilitating medical conditions to use and safely access marijuana for medical purposes, if those individuals have a written recommendation from a licensed Wisconsin physician?”
In introducing the resolution, County Supervisor Andy Berg cited the opioid epidemic in Wisconsin, with 800 overdose deaths reported in the state in the past year alone.
In addition, Berg and other supporters on the board noted 30 other states already have legalized medicinal cannabis.
Before the vote, a long, diverse line of men and women trooped to the podium to share their personal stories of chronic pain and disabilities relieved through the use of marijuana.
In doing so, many cited studies supporting its medicinal benefits and implored the board to let county residents have a voice in advising the Legislature on the issue.
Many also noted the growing number of states — eight so far — that have legalized personal, recreational use of marijuana, along with medicinal use.
Berg’s resolution cited a Congressional Research Service estimate suggesting that taxation and regulation additionally could yield $6.8 billion in federal excise taxes. He and other supporters noted that since legalization in Colorado that state generated more than $300 million last year in taxes and fees on cannabis.
Those who voted for holding the referendum included: Berg, Terry Rose, Jeff Gentz, Mike Goebel, David Celebre, Ed Kubicki, John O’Day, Ron Frederick, Boyd Frederick, John Franco, Joseph Cardinali, Monica Yuhas and Dennis Elverman.
They argued that people in the county deserved to have their voices heard on the issue.
“There are approximately 168,000 Kenosha County residents,” Yuhas told fellow supervisors. “We are only 23 of those 168,000.”
Her remarks came after opponents of the referendum argued not about whether it should be put before voters to advise the Legislature to consider the matter, but about legalization itself.
The opponents included: Zach Rodriguez, Gabe Nudo, Board Chairman Daniel Esposito, Jeff Wamboldt, Michael Skalitzky, John Poole, Mark Nordigian and Erin Decker.
Rodriguez and Gentz said more studies need to be done.
Despite the referendum question focusing solely on prescribed medicinal use, Skalitsky said, “Most of the stoners I knew in high school seldom got off the couch except to get another bag of Doritos.”