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Weed referendum press conference

From left, Racine County Board supervisors Melissa Kaprelian and Nick Demske, along with Democratic candidate for Assembly District 63 Joel Jacobsen speak on Friday at a press conference at the Dr. John Bryant Community Center about the marijuana referendums on the ballot in Tuesday's election. In both Racine County and the City of Racine, there are multiple questions regarding marijuana. 

RACINE — While candidates for governor and Congress have received a lot of attention leading up to Tuesday election, also on the ballot will be questions regarding marijuana.

In the City of Racine and Racine County there are advisory referendums asking voters on how they feel about medical and recreational marijuana, along with how it should be enforced and taxed.

On Friday, Racine County Board supervisors Nick Demske and Melissa Kaprelian, along with Joel Jacobsen, the Democratic candidate for Assembly District 63, held a press conference at the Dr. John Bryant Community Center, 601 21st St., urging voters to make their voices heard on the subject.

Demske, a Racine resident who represents County Board District 1, said he hopes voters aren’t confused by the multiple questions, and advised that voters in the city will be asked questions from both the county and city, while non-city voters will only get the county questions.

“While this redundancy is not ideal, it also isn’t a mistake and we want to prepare residents as much as possible for seeing this so they know what to expect at the polls this coming Tuesday,” Demske said.

In particular, Demske said medical marijuana is something that could help senior citizens with chronic illnesses and parents with children “suffering from conditions that are well known to be highly treatable with cannabis.”

Demske added that he has heard from people from across the political spectrum regarding the issue.

“This was surprising to me at first, but I think I understand a little bit more why that is,” Demske said. “Chronic illness does not discriminate based on a person’s politics.”

Demske said voters should keep those who could benefit from medicinal marijuana in mind while casting their ballots.

“It is unfortunate that this is a conversation, in my opinion,” Demske said. “Some families in our communities are at a crisis level with this issue and we are acting irresponsibly as leaders if we’re not responding to that for those families.”

Kaprelian, a city resident who represents County Board District 4, said she hopes the data and results will help other elected officials get a better sense of how voters feel on this issue.

“I can’t tell you, as an elected official, how crucial and important it is to hear from the constituents so I know what direction to go and what information I can bring forward,” Kapreilian said. “This is a topic where I’m finding it hard to not find support.”

Medicinal vs. recreational

Jacobsen, a former Burlington alderman, advocates for voters to make their voices known to elected officials and said those in Madison have been “stonewalling” the issue.

“In a democratic society, your voice needs to be heard,” Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen is in favor of medicinal marijuana; however, on the topic of recreational use he is hesitant to put his name behind that topic.

“On recreational, I think it should be put out to the people of Wisconsin on a statewide referendum,” Jacobsen said.

Jacobsen’s opponent, incumbent Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the results on these referendums should be something the federal government should look at before the state acts.

“No matter what we do, it’s still against the federal law,” Vos said. “I’ll always look at the results and I want to listen to what people say.”

During his time meeting with voters, Vos said “less than one handful” of people are interested in this subject.

“It is not a topic that is a major issue for almost anybody that I speak to,” Vos said. “If anything I think these advisory referenda should be something the federal government looks at to decide whether or not they should allow medicinal marijuana in states that would like to have it or have that discussion.”

Vos said he is not in favor of recreational marijuana, but finds the arguments on medicinal marijuana to be “persuasive.”

“I think people should have the ability to go to Walgreens or Lakeview Pharmacy — you name the location — and get a prescription for that just like they do for somebody who gets a prescription for oxycodone or a traditional painkiller.”

“I can’t tell you, as an elected official, how crucial and important it is to hear from the constituents so I know what direction to go and what information I can bring forward.” Melissa Kapreilian, County Board supervisor from Racine

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Reporter

Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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