Voters across state overwhelmingly approve non-binding marijuana, abortion referenda

By: - November 10, 2022 3:17 pm
marijuana plants

Marijuana Plant (Wikimedia Commons photo)

About half a dozen communities across Wisconsin overwhelmingly approved non-binding referenda on legalizing recreational cannabis and repealing the state’s 1849 abortion ban on Tuesday. 

There were seven cannabis-related referenda on ballots across the state Tuesday, all of them passed by massive margins. While they were on the ballots of largely Democratic cities, the measures passed with an average of 74.7% of the vote. The lowest performing recreational marijuana measure passed in Eau Claire County with 68.7% of the vote while the highest performing measure passed in Dane County with 82% of the vote. 

Dane County had two cannabis questions on its ballots, one asked if it should be legalized recreationally while another asked if the county should expunge convictions for marijuana possession from people’s records. 

State Rep. Lee Snodgrass (D-Appleton) told Fox 11 News in Green Bay the vote shows Republican lawmakers are ignoring public opinion on the issue while missing out on potential tax revenue. 

“I think it shows what we’ve known statewide that a majority of Wisconsinites want to see marijuana legalized,” Snodgrass said. “Right now, we are not preventing Wisconsinites from using cannabis. They are just going to other states to do so; we are surrounded by states where it’s legalized, and this is a revenue issue.”

In the city of Kenosha, where the existence of legal cannabis a few miles away means residents regularly bring their tax dollars to Illinois, voters approved a measure to have cannabis “legalized for adult use, taxed, and regulated like alcohol” with 72% of the vote. Racine, another community not far from the Illinois border, voted in favor of its marijuana question 76% to 24%. 

Elsewhere, the city of Stevens Point passed its marijuana measure with 74.3% of the vote, the city of Appleton approved legalization with 69% of the vote and Milwaukee County passed its measure with 74% of the vote. 

Legislation to legalize cannabis recreationally or medicinally has been introduced in the state Legislature several times. This year, one of those bills received a public hearing for the first time with a Republican-supported bill to legalize medicinal cannabis getting a hearing after the Legislature had adjourned for the year. 

Two communities had ballot questions about the repeal of Wisconsin’s abortion ban, which was reinstated this year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. More than 85% of Dane County voters said they want to see the ban repealed while 71% of voters in the city of Racine said the same thing. 

The state’s Republican-controlled Legislature thwarted an attempt by Gov. Tony Evers earlier this year to amend the state constitution in order to allow a binding referendum on the question but a lawsuit from Evers and Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul that seeks to have the ban declared unenforceable is currently pending.


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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.