The idea of putting a marijuana legalization question on La Crosse County ballots this fall could come down to the wire.
The board’s executive committee heard pros and cons about legalizing pot during a meeting Thursday — two days after Canada passed a bill to legalize marijuana for recreational use by a 52-29 vote.
County board chair Tara Johnson is asking for a resolution that the board’s executive committee could vote on at its July meeting, just before the deadline for getting it on the November ballot.
It’s strictly an advisory referendum to tell lawmakers in Madison how La Crosse County voters feel.
Members of the committee suggested that drug deaths have gone down in places where marijuana has been made legal, while also saying that a 50-year war against drugs in America doesn’t seem to have had much effect.
La Crosse County Sheriff Steve Helgeson said he wouldn’t want marijuana legalized, noting that it can cause problems for drivers.
“There’s no easy way to determine exactly what somebody’s level would be and whether that would arise to level of impairment should there be an accident or should they be stopped,” Helgeson said.
Supporters of legalization believe the numbers of county prisoners would drop if marijuana possession and use stopped being a crime.
District attorney Tim Gruenke said marijuana enforcement is already leading to backlogs for the state crime lab.
“Marijuana can stay in your system a bit longer and right now there’s a big backlog at the state crime lab to test if someone has marijuana in their blood — it’s like six months,” Gruenke said. “I would wanna know if this would increase the number of OWIs. If so, would that increase the backlog? Would some of the money go to that?
Gruenke doesn’t know whether making pot legal would bring about any significant drop in local crimes.
Onalaska Assemblyman Steve Doyle doubts that a La Crosse County referendum would change the minds of any legislative leaders in Madison.