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Medical marijuana

An advisory referendum will ask Dane County voters in November whether they think the state should legalize medical marijuana after the County Board voted unanimously to place it on ballots.

The move made the county the state’s first to introduce a medical marijuana resolution. The question would ask: “Should the Wisconsin Legislature enact legislation allowing residents with debilitating medical conditions to acquire and possess marijuana for medical purposes if supported by their physician?”

Sup. John Hendrick of Madison, who introduced the resolution on Thursday, said he was surprised at the board’s unanimous vote but wouldn’t be surprised if the referendum passed by a 70-30 margin or better.

Hendrick said he personally supports the legalization of medical marijuana because he has known people with disabling conditions who have benefited from it. He added he’s aware that some people believe the law is being abused in the 14 states and the District of Columbia, where pot is legally distributed.

“I guess that’s a chance I’m willing to take,” Hendrick said.

Sup. Eileen Bruskewitz of Waunakee said she originally planned to vote against the resolution but changed her vote because a referendum would allow people to have a say. Sup. Mike Willett of Verona said he is “often one that doesn’t vote with the crowd,” but he also changed his mind, for the same reason.

“We’re overjoyed at the fact it was a unanimous vote,” said Gary Storck, president of the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Storck said it’s no longer acceptable to keep people in Wisconsin suffering, as demonstrated by the veterans who testified at the meeting.

A 1992 attempt in the Madison City Council to get a similar referendum on the ballot was not successful. Several current aldermen and former Madison mayor Sue Bauman said they couldn’t recall any resolutions introduced in recent years, though Bauman said she discussed it with activists.

The Wisconsin Medical Society has recommended marijuana continue to be illegal until it is studied in patients who have serious conditions.

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