Rock County voters want legal cannabis, tax loophole closed

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JANESVILLE - Rock County voters have spoken via advisory referndums, and urge state lawmakers to take action over legalizing cannabis and closing a so-called "Dark Store" tax loophole impacting property assessments for businesses.

Voters in Rock County supported an advisory referendum to legalize cannabis with over 69 percent of votes (46,570) supporting it and just over 30 percent (20,727) opposed to it.

Voters also supported legislators close the so-called "Dark Store" loophole, which allows businesses to have their property assessed at the value of an empty storefront, therefore giving them a lower property tax bill.

Voters supported the referendum with over 73 percent of votes (47,457) to 26 percent opposed (17,118), according to Rock County election results.

In nearby Walworth County, voters also approved closing the "Dark Store" loophole with 31,039 approving the measure compared to 10,620 opposed to the measure.

District 15 Rock County board member Yuri Rashkin, a key supporter of the cannabis referendum, said Tuesday's vote was a sign that state legislators needed to take action.

"I think it's validating," Rashkin said. "I think it's important that we listened to the people and the voice of the people becomes the law of the land. I think there's potential for directions of where this can go."

Rashkin said he believes the vote could impact how Rock County municipalities handle cannabis-related offenses and ordinances, noting changes made in Janesville could spread to Beloit and elsewhere.

"With over 68 percent of the vote that tells me the advisory referndum is an important tool for our democracy tool box," Rashkin said.

The resolution asked whether cannabis should be legalized for "adult use, taxed and regulated like alcohol, with the proceeds from the taxes used for education, healthcare, and infrastructure."

State Sen. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, has played a key role in keeping the "Dark Store" issue alive in Madison, and said Tuesday's vote was "exciting."

"People realize it affects them and that's very important," Ringhand said. "Legislators are responsible for making changes. Hopefully we will be able to make that change and protect our citizens."

A meeting in Madison over the issue is expected on Dec. 10, Ringhand said.

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