Voters Will Say If They Favor Pot – or Not

Tom Giffey

Eau Claire County voters will be able to voice their opinion on legalizing marijuana (a.k.a. cannabis, a.k.a. pot, a.k.a. too many other nicknames to print) in a nonbinding referendum on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. The Eau Claire County Board recently voted 20-4 to put the advisory question before voters. According to a resolution authorizing the referendum, such a vote “can gauge public opinion and give voters an opportunity to learn about a public health issue that will likely be before the legislature.” Voters will be able to choose among three alternatives on the ballot:

  • Cannabis should be legal for adults to use for recreational and medical purposes, and it should be taxed and regulated like alcohol, with the proceeds to be used for health care, education, and infrastructure.

  • Cannabis should be legal only for medical purposes and available only by prescription.

  • Cannabis should remain illegal, as under current law.

Marijuana laws have been rapidly changing across the U.S. In recent years. Personal use is now legal in seven states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) and could be legal soon in two more (Illinois and Michigan), while limited personal possession and cultivation are legal in Vermont and the District of Columbia. Marijuana possession remains a crime in Wisconsin, although in 2014 a state law was enacted allowing use of cannabidiol – which is derived from cannabis – to be used in medical treatment. In addition, industrial hemp cultivation was legalized last year. While the November referendum will have no direct impact on the law, it could boost – or diminish – the effort to loosen pot laws in the state.