The Door County Board of Supervisors suggest you contact your state legislators if you want to see marijuana law changes. That was the majority (14-6) view when the county board voted down the idea to put the question of medical and recreational marijuana before Door County voters next April.
“As far as medical marijuana, I leave it up to the FDA,” said Supervisor Linda Wait. “I am not in favor of seeing it on the ballot. Each and every one of you have the ability to contact our legislature.”
Supervisor Bob Bultman pointed out that on Nov. 6, a series of questions regarding both medical and recreational marijuana overwhelmingly passed in non-binding referenda in both rural and urban communities across the state.
“It’s pretty clear that nationwide legalization is coming,” he said. “You can stand on the beach with your head in the sand or you can wax up your surfboard.”
Two former Door County law officers who serve on the board also spoke against a marijuana referendum in Door County.
Supervisor Jon Koch said it would be a shame to have spent so much time and money on enforcement against drugs – including alcohol, he said – and then see things go the opposite way. Supervisor Richard Virlee agreed, saying it’s in state statute that people shouldn’t be driving on alcohol or drugs.
Supervisor Megan Lundahl pointed out that this was not about the personal feelings supervisors have about marijuana legalization, but giving a voice to their constituents, who want to be heard on the issue as others have been heard throughout the state. That view was supported by Supervisor Susan Kohout, who said, “We have citizens in this county who have asked us to use a tool which is legal and available to us so they can have their voices heard, so they can speak to the legislature on this.”
Kohout added that she sees no downside to putting the referendum on the ballot, saying that people all over the country and hemisphere are weighing in on the issue of marijuana laws.
“They’re simply saying to us, let us weigh in, too,” she said. “It seems reasonable to me.”
Supervisor Helen Bacon, who also chairs the Human Services committee, worried at the social cost of marijuana legislation, and said it could put an additional strain on the county’s social services. She also mentioned that she has had many conversations with people on the subject and is surprised by how many – and sometimes who – is in support of marijuana.
Bacon said before the community takes such a monumental step, there need to be community conversations on the subject, which prompted board chair Dave Lienau to become devil’s advocate and ask Bacon what the impetus for those conversations might be?
Lienau answered his own question by suggesting the non-binding referendum might be the very impetus she is looking for to have community conversations on marijuana.
Supervisor Ken Fisher did not put himself in good stead with city residents when he publicly dismissed one of the two members of the public who spoke in favor of the marijuana referendum. One, Edward DiMaio, spoke in favor of medical marijuana as a prostate cancer patient.
Sturgeon Bay Alderman Seth Wiederanders was the other speaker in favor of the referendum. He pointed out that Door County is surrounded by states and an entire nation (Canada) that have taken a stand on marijuana, and Door County residents would appreciate the ability to also weigh in on the matter, adding that a non-binding referendum is like taking the temperature of the county.
Fisher began the discussion by saying he knew nothing about the issue and asked aloud if medical marijuana wasn’t already legal – to a resounding “No” from the rest of the board. He said that not a single constituent has approached him on the subject, and having just two people show up in the public forum, one representing the city “with the problems the city has,” Fisher said, “I don’t think we can listen to them.”
Fisher also claimed that certain municipalities that have legalized marijuana are looking into recriminalizing it, but he did not offer specifics of where this is happening.
The six votes in favor of the referendum were from Supervisors Helen Bacon, Bob Bultman, Vinni Chomeau, Susan Kohout, Megan Lundahl and Nissa Norton.