The City of Racine moved one step closer to putting an advisory vote to legalize marijuana on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. The city’s Public Works and Services Committee Tuesday passed along its recommendation to split the complex issue into three parts.
The recommendation is set to go before the City Council on Monday. That meeting will start at 7 p.m. in Room 205 of City Hall, 730 Washington Ave.
Ald. John Tate II brought the proposal to the committee suggesting an advisory vote could help measure support for the legalization of marijuana across the state. Reducing jail sentences for non-violent offenders, he suggested could be achieved through legalization.
Tate initially took his referendum idea to the city’s Financial Services and Personnel Committee, but he did not receive a response in time to get the question on that committee’s agenda for its July 23 meeting.
To appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, the proposal and language need to be approved 70 days in advance: Aug. 28.
As the proposal would help fund infrastructure, he instead took the proposal to the Public Works Committee. The Public Works Committee chose to split the question into three aspects:
- Cannabis legalization for medicinal uses
- Cannabis legalization for recreational use, taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol
- Proceeds from taxes on cannabis to be used for public education, healthcare and infrastructure
“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 in an earlier press release.
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.
Racine County residents may also weigh-in
Racine County Board Supervisors Fabi Maldonado (District 2) and Nick Demske (District 1) are also working with the Racine County Corporation Counsel to craft two referenda.
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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