Marijuana referendum heads to Board of Supervisors

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) -- The Brown County Executive Committee narrowly passes a marijuana advisory referendum, which will head to next week’s County Board of Supervisors.

At the meeting Monday night, dozens of Brown County residents came forward, speaking for hours about the legalization of marijuana.

It’s all because of a non-binding marijuana advisory referendum, that some people hope will make the November 6th ballot.

The referendum would not legalize marijuana in Brown County. Instead, it’s something that Supervisor Alex Tran, District 21, calls a “public opinion poll,” to see if people in the county would support the legalization.

“[Brown County doesn’t] have jurisdiction over the legalization process. The state legislature and the governor has the say on it. But we don't,” she explains. “We just want to know where Brown County stands on this issue.”

Supervisors Tran and Erik Hoyer, District 4, brought forward the referendum in Brown County, similar to referendums that will be seen on multiple other Wisconsin county ballots come November.

They’re hoping to see the referendum on the Brown County ballot this fall – a popular opinion many voiced Monday night.

Laura Kiefert of Green Bay, says she’s never used marijuana, but is in support of its legalization. She has chronic pain issues, and believes that it’s a good alternative to opioid use.

“I also believe that there'd be a significant impact on the opioid crisis were now cut off from their medication because if the medication for opioids had an alternative, other than to go to street drugs,” Kiefert said during the meeting’s public discussion.

In all, more than 20 people came forward with similar sentiments – each one greeted with applause when their speeches wrapped. No one came forward opposing marijuana legalization, or the advisory referendum.

But when the board closed public comment – tensions rose.

“Hey!” Supervisor Bernie Erickson, District 7, exclaimed, after several audience members interrupted his discussion. “I listened for an hour and a half. I have the floor now. I haven't said anything derogatory, but I'm about to.”

Some supervisors supported the idea of medical marijuana, but not recreational use. Several commented that voting on the referendum would be voting on a state issue, instead of a Brown County one.

“Every person on this County Board was elected to do County business,” said Supervisor John Van Dyck, District 17. “Not state, and not federal business. And this is a state issue.”

In the end, the referendum passed 3-2, with two supervisors abstaining from voting.

From here, the referendum will head to the County Board of Supervisors meeting next week.