Wisconsin Justice Initiative today urged Milwaukee County voters to tell legislators what they think about marijuana legalization.
Milwaukee County voters will see a legalization referendum question on the November 8 ballot.
The question asks whether voters 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.”
At the press conference, WJI President Craig Johnson discussed criminal justice-based reasons for legalization, including the need to end sanctions that are enforced disproportionately against people of color. Current felony sanctions for possession cause lifelong harm by serving as a gateway into the criminal justice system, he said.
Johnson was joined by Wisconsin Justice Initiative Action President Joseph Czarnezki. Czarnezki summarized the benefits of taxing revenue from marijuana sales. “Our neighboring states, Michigan and Illinois, have legalized it. Why should we be sending all our tax dollars to those states?” he said.
Czarnezki noted that in a similar referendum in Milwaukee County four years ago, voters overwhelmingly voted “yes” for legalization. The current referendum is necessary because of the “need to keep the pressure on the state Legislature,” he said.
Milwaukee County Supervisor Ryan Clancy, who sponsored the resolution putting the referendum on the ballot, highlighted how criminalization hampers hiring and employment efforts. “These things are not just locking people up, it’s not just putting people back in jail and giving more work to our Milwaukee County employees, but it’s keeping people from getting jobs in the first place.”
Wisconsin Sen. Melissa Agard talked of the legislative bills she has sponsored for a decade. Those bills have been blocked or stuck in the Legislature, and voters need to tell legislators to get them moving, she said.
Cannabis educator and researcher Brad Rowe discussed how legalization and licensing of marijuana create safer usage and the opportunity for open discussion about marijuana use. For instance, someone using marijuana could call for medical help without the response of police officers as well, he noted. He described how current law impedes research into the medical benefits of cannabis for treatment of chronic pain, nausea, or other conditions.
Andrew Hysell of Forever Wisconsin served as emcee of the press conference.
Similar referendums will be on the ballots in Dane and Eau Claire counties and in the cities of Stevens Point, Kenosha, Racine, Appleton, and Superior.
WJI supports the legalization of marijuana to avoid the disparate and severe impact on minority communities.
Listen to a recording of the press conference by clicking the arrow at the top of this story.
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