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Legalize medical marijuana? Referendum to ask voters


July 26, 2018

The Sauk County Board of Supervisors wants to know how the county’s citizens feel about legalizing medical marijuana in Wisconsin. In an effort to find out, the board approved a third advisory referendum to be on the November ballot. Of the three referenda to be on the ballot in November, most supervisors felt this was the one with the most pertinence to Sauk County, voting 24 in favor, one in opposition, five abstaining and one excused absence at the July 17 meeting.

Before the board got down to business, the supervisors listened to eight county residents speak during public comment. Seven of those eight spoke in favor of placing this advisory referendum on the ballot while the eighth spoke on a different topic altogether. Of those who spoke in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, the Meagan and Josh Lowe family from Merrimac presented an emotionally gut-wrenching, heart-grabbing case using their own daughter, Nora’s, health conditions.

“My daughter, Nora, has Rett Syndrome,” Meagan Lowe told the supervisors. “It’s a neurological movement disorder. It affects mainly girls. Her symptoms right now include seizures, constipation, irregular breathing patterns, hyperventilation, sleep disturbance, and dystonia, which is the worst, painful muscle spasms.” Mrs. Lowe went on to tell how doctors had tried a long list of prescribed drugs on Nora and all offered little or no relief. In their research the Lowes found evidence that medical cannabis has given relief in similar cases where the symptoms are the same. “This could help her live,” Meagan said.

“Why prevent her from getting this?” asked Josh.

“We’ve thought of moving somewhere where it is legal but we love Wisconsin,” added Meagan.

At present 30 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Eight of those states have also legalized marijuana for recreational use. Wisconsin is one of a number of other states considering the legalization of marijuana for medical and/or recreational use.

Before the board voted on the resolution, Supervisor John Dietrich, Reedsburg, proposed an amendment to the original wording of the resolution. In the resolution the advisory question was stated as, “Should the State of Wisconsin legalize medical marijuana so that people with debilitating medical conditions can access medical marijuana if they have a prescription from a licensed Wisconsin physician?” Dietrich argued that doctors are not allowed to write prescriptions for medical marijuana because it is illegal on the federal level. He said doctors may only recommend the use of medical marijuana and the word “prescribed” should be changed to “recommended.”

The rest of the board agreed with Dietrich’s amendment and voted 28-1 to allow the change.

Dietrich later stated that although marijuana in any form is against federal law, the Department of Justice has told state to go ahead and approve medical marijuana and they would not interfere with the operations. He added that as such the use of medical marijuana remains illegal on federal lands including federal housing. He added that that restriction may change but at present it has not.

In other business, a collective bargaining agreement between Sauk County and the Wisconsin Professional Police Association (WPPA) L241 – Sheriff’s Department Sworn Unit, was approved. WPPA L241 has been operating without a contract since Dec. 31, 2017. This successor agreement is for the years 2018-2019. The terms of the agreement, among other things, calls for the termination of a paid wellness day to be replaced by an additional paid holiday,

Wage increases under the contract agreement include across the board raises of one percent raise as of Jan. 12, 2018, another one percent raise on July 27, 2018, and two percent on Jan. 11, 2019. The patrol and detective divisions will receive an additional raise of 25 cents per hour on July 27, 2018 and 1.25 percent on Aug. 9, 2019.

One other notable change to the contract agreement was the change from two to three days of funeral leave for grandparents and a number of in-laws. The resolution to adopt the collective bargaining agreement passed on a unanimous vote with one supervisor abstaining.

Under scheduled appearances, Ed Janairo, campus dean of UW-Baraboo/Sauk County as of July 1, 2018, gave an update on the school’s merger with UW-Platteville. Janairo said UW-Platteville now has authority over UW-Baraboo/Sauk County and all efforts are being made to make the transition for students seamless. He said the Campus Commission headed by officials from Baraboo and Sauk County will still oversee the campus.

Janairo added there will be a change in leadership focus as UW-Baraboo/Sauk County will no longer be a regional campus but will become one single campus with UW-Platteville and UW-Richland.

There will be a greater selection of offerings for students and new associates degrees will be offered in agriculture, business and hospitality/tourism. Later on the campus will begin offering four-year degrees.

Enrollment is expected to grow with these changes. Fees are being waived for students that apply now for the fall 2018 semester.

The campus will undergo a name change. Regents will vote on the new name in August. The name of the sponsoring campus must go first and then after that it is up to the regents. The name being proposed is UW-Platteville Baraboo/Sauk County with the latter in larger letters.

On the consent agenda the board recognized the retirements of Cindy Jones and Denise Kasper. The Human Services Board recognized Jones for 17 years of service to the County and the Law Enforcement & Judiciary Committee recognized Kasper for 28 years of service.

Former supervisor Joan Fordham was newly appointed to a five-year term as a citizen member of the Sauk County Housing Authority.


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