Town backs medicinal pot

Not all Oak Creek residents agree with town resolution

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— Oak Creek's decision Monday to pass a resolution supporting medicinal marijuana has some residents questioning the Town Board's interest in issues not related to official town business.

The resolution -- which originally was scheduled for a vote during the Town Board's May 8 meeting -- was tabled after some residents expressed concern and anger about it.

The lengthy resolution calls for the town to urge U.S. Rep. John Salazar, a Democrat, to support an amendment preventing the federal government from interfering with state medicinal marijuana laws. If passed, the amendment, which was introduced in May by U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., would prevent the U.S. Department of Justice from spending any funds to prosecute patients, doctors and others who are associated with the use of medical marijuana in states that allow the drug for medical purposes. Salazar is scheduled to vote on the amendment at the end of June. In 2005, Salazar voted against the amendment.

During the June 8 Oak Creek Town Board meeting, several community members and town employees chastised Town Board members for considering the resolution. The critics argued that Town Board members were not representing the town by voting on such a resolution.

Town Board members agreed that they shouldn't vote on the resolution without community support, so they decided to check the town's 2000 election results to see how Oak Creek residents voted on a state referendum about legalizing medicinal marijuana.

Oak Creek Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman said Tuesday that after learning that 263 residents voted in favor of legalizing medicinal marijuana and 175 voted against it, she felt comfortable signing the resolution and sending it to Salazar.

Rodeman said Town Board members agreed they would pass the resolution if they found that more than half the voters supported the issue in 2000.

"We didn't want to move forward with this if we found that more people in Oak Creek were against it. We were willing to keep our mouths shut and let them fight it out in the Senate if we didn't have the support," Rodeman said.

Public Works Director Jim Photos was one of the residents who opposed the town voting on the issue Thursday.

"It doesn't matter if I'm for the issue (of medicinal marijuana) or against it," Photos said. "As a Town Board, their function is to govern the town. The way I look at is they're there for our water and sewer and electric issues, not this. I wanted to express my opinion that these were not issues the town should be handling."

Rodeman said she wanted to be clear that the town is supporting a resolution that only encourages Salazar to vote in favor of the amendment.

"I truly believe that the federal government should not be telling doctors what to do or prosecuting terminally ill patients for using the medicine their doctor prescribed them," she said.

David Bonfiglio, an Oak Creek resident and owner of Bonfiglio Drug, said he was pleased town officials considered the 2000 election results before passing the resolution. But he doesn't think the town should have passed the resolution because of the image it gives Oak Creek.

"Passing a resolution like that labels the community as 'pro-marijuana.' I'm not sure there are a lot of people in this community that want that label," he said.

Instead of tackling the issue without community input, Bon--figlio thinks Town Board members should have got in touch with community members -- especially those with opposing viewpoints -- to discuss the issue before they passed it.

"If you think you're representing the town but you never get out there to see what people think, how can you be sure?" he said. "I don't think any governmental body should make a judgment that affects their people without talking to them."

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