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Dane County votes to put pot legalization advisory referendum on Spring ballots

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History was made Thursday night when Dane County supervisors passed a resolution authorizing a Spring 2014 advisory referendum asking voters, "Should the state government enact legislation legalizing marijuana?"

The resolution, sponsored by Supervisors Leland Pan, Kyle Richmond and others first passed the Board's Executive Committee with a 5-0 vote with Sup. Dave Ripp abstaining.

Later, the full County Board passed the referendum resolution on a voice vote with Sup. Ripp again abstaining. More than a dozen citizens registered in support with a number testifying in favor including representatives of Madison NORML and Is My Medicine Legal YET? Both lead sponsors testified in favor with Sup. Pan speaking on how cannabis prohibition falls heaviest on minorities, a point backed up by a recent study showing a tremendous racial disparity in Dane County. No one testified against the resolution and no supervisors spoke in opposition.

Especially interesting was the testimony of a local man who works at a Dane County company whose business includes supplying equipment used by the legal medical cannabis industry. He stated they were on track for sales to medical cannabis businesses to be 10% of the total business of a 200-employee manufacturer.

So it seems the cannabis industry is already creating jobs in Wisconsin despite the state's failure so far to join the other 20 or so states that are benefiting from cannabis law reform. Wisconsin is not a bubble. State lines and prohibition can't stop attitudes from changing and businesses taking advantage of legal opportunities.

Like Dane County's 2010 medical cannabis advisory referendum, which was favored by 75.49% of voters, this referendum will also be advisory and have no effect on the legality of cannabis. But with attitudes towards cannabis changing quickly in America and in Wisconsin, the vote will give a nice snapshot of public support for cannabis legalization.

A Dane County supervisor who is also a Wisconsin state representative, Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison), is also a supporter of cannabis legalization and recently made news as the legislature's most outspoken supporter of outright legalization.

The Spring Election date is Tuesday, April 1, 2014.

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