Wisconsin is one of the few states in the US that has not legalized or decriminalized cannabis in any form. However, this may change soon as a group of bipartisan lawmakers has introduced a bill to reduce the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana.
The Proposal to Decriminalize Cannabis Possession
The bill, known as Assembly Bill 861, was presented by Reps. Shae Sortwell, R-Two Rivers, Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, D-Milwaukee, Dave Considine, D-Baraboo, and Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee. The bill aims to decriminalize the possession of 14 grams or less of marijuana by lowering the fine from a maximum of $1,000 and a jail term of up to six months to a civil forfeiture of $100. The bill also allows local governments to enact ordinances that are more lenient than the state law.
The lawmakers said that the bill is a common-sense measure that would address the inconsistencies in marijuana laws across the state and reduce the burden on the criminal justice system. They also said that the bill would align Wisconsin with the national trend of cannabis policy reform, as many other states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.
The Support and Opposition for the Bill
The bill has received support from various groups and individuals, including the Wisconsin ACLU, the Wisconsin NORML, the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and former Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager. They argued that the current law is harsh, ineffective, and racially biased, as it disproportionately affects people of color and low-income communities. They also said that the bill would save money, resources, and lives by diverting people from the criminal system and allowing them to access treatment and education.
However, the bill also faces opposition from some groups and individuals, including the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association, and the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association. They claimed that the bill would send the wrong message to the public, especially the youth, and encourage more marijuana use and abuse. They also said that the bill would undermine the efforts of law enforcement and prosecutors to combat drug trafficking and violence.
The Chances of the Bill Becoming Law
The bill has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, where it awaits a public hearing. However, the chances of the bill becoming law are uncertain, as the Republican-controlled legislature has been reluctant to embrace any form of cannabis legalization or decriminalization. Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has said that he would re-introduce a limited medical marijuana bill in January, but he has not expressed support for the decriminalization bill. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, has also proposed legalizing medical and recreational marijuana in his budget, but his plan has been rejected by the Republicans.
The bill’s authors said that they hope to gain bipartisan support for the bill and persuade their colleagues to vote for it. They said that the bill is a modest and reasonable step towards cannabis reform that would benefit the people of Wisconsin.