By Ben Rodgers
BROWN COUNTY – On Nov. 6, one of the questions voters in Brown County will be asked is if they are in favor of medical marijuana.
Earlier this year, the Brown County Board of Supervisors met for hours and listened to residents opinions about the the legalization of recreational and medicinal marijuana.
The question for medical marijuana initially passed the county board 16-10, while the question for recreational marijuana failed 15-11.
This will be an advisory referendum on Nov. 6, because Brown County cannot legalize marijuana.
The issue was brought before the county board by supervisors Alex Tran and Erik Hoyer.
“Shortly after being elected, some constituents reached out to me and asked me why Milwaukee residents get to vote on the marijuana issue and they couldn’t,” Tran said. “I said ‘It was just an advisory referendum, and the state and the feds are the only ones who can change the law.’ However, they still wanted a chance to have their voices heard, and that is what this referendum is about – allowing citizens to have their voices heard. Now residents in Ashwaubenon can let their state and federal reps know publicly where the community stands on this issue on Nov. 6.”
In July, the county board heard testimonials from people in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes, although the board only approved the medical advisory referendum question.
“I was disappointed that the original version of the question which included unfunded state mandates, was taken out the referendum question,” Tran said. “It’s projected that the county has over $15 million in unfunded state mandates and I think the original question should have been asked, but at the end of the day, I accomplished what I was asked to do – to let the voters’ voices be heard.”
Some of the testimony the board heard in July, Tran said showed there is a need for legal medical marijuana in Wisconsin.
“Many residents came and spoke in favor of the referendum. Some have been on opioids for years due to tremendous pain and couldn’t function anymore because of the agonizing side effects of the opioids; others have loved ones suffering from painful side effects of cancer,” she said. “The takeaway for me is this – in our community, we have real people living with real debilitating pain who found something that brings them comfort from the pain and allows them to live a more comfortable life.”
Hoyer said such a showing of support for an advisory referendum is not normal for the county board.
“It was a unique opportunity. While we do occasionally have controversial issues or issues people want to speak on, its generally not the norm in the county board, such an outpouring of people sharing their stories and their views, some against it and some for it,” Hoyer said. “I would say it’s probably 75 to 80 percent in favor of a referendum and in favor of medicinal marijuana. But the ones that actually told their stories and explained how it might potentially be able to help them with their health issues, it was very moving. From a large prospective to have so many people interested in what we’re doing as a county and the process, that was the best part.”
Hoyer, like Tran, just wants the citizens to have their voices heard in any potential state legislation moving forward.
“I hope (the state legislature) gets a clear idea of where our community stands, where our county stands, in terms of this issue, and my guess is it’s going to pass and I think it’s going to pass pretty well,” Hoyer said. “Ultimately, my hope is that message gets sent to the state who might consider allowing for other types (of medication) beyond CBD, potentially medicinal marijuana and drugs and other things that are available to our constituents that are suffering.”
Patrick Moynihan Jr., county board chair, said his two “no” votes in July came down to what is going to happen after the referendum.
“I didn’t go for either,” Moynihan said. “There is no pending legislation in Madison. “From my perspective, you vote on it, it’s approved and now what? It isn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t going to expand tax dollars on something that wasn’t going to an effect. At least the dark store has pending legislation.”