Voters in Communities Across Wisconsin Show Support for Marijuana Legalization at Polls

Voters in 16 counties and two cities conveyed support for marijuana reform in advisory questions.

Voters in several Wisconsin counties and cities this week strongly approved non-binding ballot questions calling for marijuana reform.

Every advisory referendum on marijuana use in Tuesday’s general election – from approving the use of marijuana for medical purposes to full adult use legalization – were supported by solid majorities.

Wisconsin currently has in place a low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) medical cannabis program. The restrictive law limits access to these low-THC products to patients diagnosed with seizure disorders.

Six Wisconsin counties conveyed to the GOP-controlled Legislature it was time to legalize recreational marijuana.

  • Dane County: Three-fourth of voters (76 percent) approved an advisory question on whether “marijuana should be legalized, taxed and regulated in the same manner as alcohol for adults 21 years or age or older.”
  • La Crosse County: Nearly two-thirds of voters (63 percent) answered yes when asked whether the use of marijuana by adults 21 and older should be legalized, taxed, and regulated similar to alcohol, with tax revenue going to education, healthcare, and infrastructure.
  • Milwaukee County: When asked in a referendum question whether adults 21 and older should be able to legally use and possess marijuana and a commercial market should be established, 70 percent of voters said yes.
  • Racine County: Fifty-nine percent of voters said yes when asked whether marijuana should be legalized, taxed, and regulated like alcohol for adults 21 years and older. Eighty-one percent said tax revenue should go to fund education, healthcare, and infrastructure.
  • Rock County: Nearly seven in 10 voters (69 percent) favored a referendum question on adult use marijuana legalization, with revenue from taxes going to education, health care, and infrastructure.
  • City of Racine: Sixty-six percent of voters in Racine said yes when asked whether recreational marijuana should be legalized in Wisconsin. Eight-three percent said yes to tax revenue going to help fund public education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Seventy-two percent voted in favor of cannabis being decriminalized.

Eleven counties and two cities strongly supported medical marijuana referendums.

  • Brown County: By a margin of almost three-to-one (76 percent), voters approved a referendum calling on the state to make it legal for doctors to prescribe medical marijuana for adults 21 and older.
  • Clark County: More than two-thirds of voters (67 percent) approved a referendum question asking whether Wisconsin should legalize medical marijuana and regulate its use similar to prescription drugs.
  • Forest County: Nearly eight of 10 voters (79 percent) said yes to an advisory question on whether Wisconsin should allow patients with a written recommendation from a licensed physician to use and access marijuana.
  • Kenosha County: Eighty-eight percent of voters were in favor of a referendum question on allowing “individuals with debilitating medical conditions” to use and have access to medical marijuana.
  • Langlade County: An advisory question on whether to allow use of medical cannabis by patients with a doctor’s written recommendation was approved by 77 percent of voters.
  • Lincoln County: Eighty-one percent of voters said yes to a referendum question on legalizing medical cannabis for individuals with debilitating conditions who have a recommendation from a doctor.
  • Marathon County: Eighty-two percent of Marathon County voters said yes to allowing medical cannabis for patients with debilitating medical conditions.
  • Marquette County: When asked in an advisory question whether medical cannabis should be accessible to those with a recommendation of a licensed physician, 78 percent of voters said yes.
  • Portage County: Eighty-three percent of voters in Portage County said yes when asked whether “individuals with debilitating medical conditions” should be able to legally use and access marijuana for medical purposes.
  • Racine County: Eighty-five percent of voters were in favor of a referendum question on whether marijuana should be legalized for medicinal use.
  • Sauk County: Eight in 10 voters (80 percent) responded yes to a ballot advisory question on whether medical marijuana should be legal.
  • City of Racine: Eighty-eight percent of voters in Racine said they believe the medical use of marijuana should be legal.
  • City of Waukesha: Seventy-seven percent of voters in Waukesha said yes when asked whether medical marijuana should be legal and regulated like prescription drugs.

Voters in Eau Claire County were asked to decide whether they favored full marijuana legalization, medical marijuana legalization only, or continued prohibition. Fifty-four percent supported full recreational legalization, while 31 percent said marijuana should be legal for medical purposes only, and 15 percent said laws should stay as they are.

marijuana in wisconsin

Sending a Message to Lawmakers

The referendum questions are non-binding and therefore do not change state laws or community ordinances. They do, however, send a message to lawmakers of the public’s interest in cannabis reform.

“While these referendums were only advisory, they show cannabis law reform to be more popular than many of the lawmakers who won in these areas. This should send a strong message to the incoming Wisconsin legislature that cannabis law reform – including medical cannabis, cannabis decriminalization, and cannabis legalization – must be a priority in 2019,” Eric Marsch, Executive Director of Southern Wisconsin National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) told Patch.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, who ousted incumbent Gov. Scott Walker this week, supports decriminalizing marijuana and allowing medical cannabis. He has said he wants to let voters decide on whether to legalize recreational marijuana statewide.

NORML has announced it will try and schedule a meeting with the governor-elect’s team to push for medical cannabis.

Legalization efforts will not proceed without resistance. Wisconsin Senate President Roger Roth, just reelected on Tuesday, has recently said he is not ready to support the legalization of medical marijuana, claiming there’s a lack of evidence of its therapeutic benefits.

The message sent by Wisconsin voters at the ballot box align with a recent poll from Marquette Law School, which showed that 61 percent support adult-use legalization.

Expanding Cannabis Legalization

Three states approved marijuana measures in this week’s election, and now 32 states have legalized marijuana in some capacity. Learn more about the election results here, and see where marijuana is now legal in the U.S. through our education page.