On Nov. 6, voters across Wisconsin will head to the polls to vote on whether marijuana should be legalized in 16 Wisconsin counties and two cities. Questions concerning marijuana will range from should it be legalized for medical purposes to recreational use.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nine states and the District of Columbia have approved the recreational use of Marijuana, while another 30 states have approved the drug for medicinal use. Here in Milwaukee County, people behind the push to legalize weed say it’s not just about users, but about equality within the criminal justice system.
Those who pushed to get marijuana on the ballot say the fact that so many other places have now decriminalized the drug gives the arguments new life. Craig Johnson, president of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative, urges people to vote in favor the of the marijuana referendum.
“It’s time for Wisconsin to join the ever-growing list of states that have recognized that marijuana prohibition is an outdated and regressive policy,” Johnson said at a press conference at the Milwaukee County Court House on Thursday.
He says the impact of laws prohibiting marijuana use has disproportionately impacted black people, who are stopped by police more often. And Johnson says one way to fix that is by decriminalizing the drug.
State Democratic Rep. David Bowen says that fear-mongering has dominated the debate here for too long, but that other states have now shown us the way. He says a new state legislature in January coupled with the fact that it’s not just Milwaukee asking for the change could be just what is needed to legalize marijuana in Wisconsin.
“We get a chance to have a new discussion on this, as not just urban communities like Milwaukee will vote on this policy, this perspective, but rural communities as well. I think that can spark a whole new conversation and a new frame of talking about this issue that we haven’t done before,” Bowen says.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker has said he does not support legalizing marijuana, calling it a gateway drug. Walker’s Democratic opponent Tony Evers has said he is for the use of medical marijuana.