Wisconsin Tribe Votes to Legalize Medical and Recreational Marijuana In “Advisory Vote”

Members of the Menominee Indian Tribe in northeastern Wisconsin held what they call an “advisory vote” regarding the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana last week.

Some 77% of those who voted favored medical marijuana legalization, and 58% favored recreational legalization as well. Only 13% of the tribe’s 9,000 members cast ballots.

Chairman Gary Besaw stated that tribal legislators are studying how the tribe might move forward with legalization measures, noting that the Menominee “have to be cautious.”

“This is all new ground we’re breaking,” he said. “It’s hard to get definitive answers.”

Regarding whether the tribe would consider selling marijuana to non-members, Besaw said that they would defer to the U.S. attorney’s office in Wisconsin for all interpretations of Justice Department’s 2014 memorandum. The memo states that tribes are allowed to regulate marijuana independently of federal law, though many tribes have been wary of making moves amid public health concerns.

Besaw said that the medical marijuana issue was clearer. “People more clearly understand the benefit of medicinal marijuana. Even those who voted no on the recreational have said… we know there is value in medicinal marijuana and there clearly are individuals who benefit from it.”

Wisconsin Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) stated that he was disappointed by the tribe’s vote, claiming that legalization would pose “serious challenges for law enforcement.”



Photo Credit: Jordan Richmond

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