What you need to know about marijuana referendums in Wisconsin

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More than a dozen counties around Wisconsin will ask a question about the legalization of marijuana on the ballots in November. The counties are asking different questions, but they are all advisory referendums, meaning they don't require the state legislature to take action.

"It's really just sending a message to the state that the citizens want to see a change in the law," said Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell.

In Dane County, the question on the ballot is, "Should marijuana be legalized, taxed and regulated in the same manner as alcohol for adults 21 years of age or older?"

Dane County board member Yogesh Chawla sponsored the referendum in Dane County. "We're really gauging public opinion. Any actions to change the law will have to be taken in our Assembly and by our executive branches here in the state of Wisconsin," Chawla said.

Marijuana legalization has been asked about before in Dane County. A total of 16 counties -- including Dane, Rock, Marquette and Sauk -- and two cities -- Waukesha and Racine -- will ask about the issue in November.

"That represents over half the population of the state of Wisconsin, so we're really going to get an accurate picture of what our neighbors in Wisconsin think about this issue," Chawla said. Dane County is already seeing high numbers of voter registrations and absentee voting.

"We were anticipating higher turnout this year, mostly revolving around enthusiasm about the Senate race and the governor's race," McDonell said.

"But I'm not sure the marijuana referendum will drive turnout. Last time I saw it on the ballot, there were people coming in to vote just for that, but they were skipping everything on the ballot and just going down and voting on the referendum, so I'm not sure it was driving turnout for anything other than that."

News 3 asked the candidates for attorney general what they think about the legalization of marijuana. Republican and current Attorney General Brad Schimel's campaign called the referendums "a ploy to turn out Democrat votes."

Schimel's campaign said he opposes the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, but he believes the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and medical community should be consulted regarding effectiveness and safety before legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes.

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