Outagamie County moves closer to a possible fall referendum on marijuana use

APPLETON – Outagamie County residents may see the issue of legalized marijuana on the ballot this fall.

A vote to draft a resolution regarding a possible referendum on marijuana legalization was supported Tuesday by the Outagamie County Public Safety Committee. That was the first step. On July 24, the committee will vote to potentially support that resolution and recommend to the County Board that the referendum be added to the fall ballot.

Any such referendum would be advisory, as any legalization of pot, whether for medicinal or recreational use, would need to be taken up by the state. A number of counties across the state have taken action to put the topic on the fall ballot.

“I understand that we don’t have direct ballot access in the state of Wisconsin, but we should have a public interest ballot on the issue of the decriminalization of marijuana on the ballot this fall,” Andrew Walsh of Appleton said during the public participation portion of Tuesday’s meeting.

Brown County committee earlier this week recommended putting two advisory referendums on the ballot, one regarding recreational use and the other medical use of marijuana.

Milwaukee County voters are also set to have an advisory referendum on their ballot asking about recreational marijuana use by adults. Dane, La Crosse and Rock counties have proposed similar referendums.

Outagamie County supervisor Katrin Patience of the Public Safety Committee said she’d be looking for input from county residents and would want to see the marijuana issue discussed from a variety of perspectives.

“It seems to me like we need to know what this might entail,” Patience said of the possible legalization of the drug. “Pro and con, we have to look at it not just from a mental health perspective, from a medical (perspective), … unintended consequence perspective and so on and so forth.

“If the (state) were to legalize or decriminalize, which is different, what would those consequences be for the police department of the City of Appleton?”

Supervisor Mike Woodzicka told USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin that an advisory referendum would give elected officials a good indication of what constituents are thinking on the marijuana issue.

“It’s a long way from decriminalized marijuana,” he said. “It’s not something the county can do, but I think it’s important to know what the public is thinking. … My position is let the voters decide what they think and the policy makers study the facts and go from there.”

Currently, eight states and the District of Columbia allow limited legal marijuana use. Medical marijuana use is legal in 29 states and DC.

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