Gretchen Schuldt
Op Ed

Reduce Penalties for Pot Possession

Second offense possession still a felony in Wisconsin.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Aug 7th, 2017 02:14 pm
Marijuana plant. Photo by Jennifer Martin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Marijuana plant. Photo by Jennifer Martin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

While other states are legalizing medical and recreational use of marijuana, Wisconsin still makes the second offense of simple possession a felony that carries maximum penalties of three years and six months in prison and a $10,000 fine.And there is the ancillary damage done to people convicted of this crime — the felony record that guts life chances for decent employment and some government benefits; the potential of spending days in jail after arrest that can result in lost jobs and disrupted families; the loss of the right to vote while under the court/Department of Corrections supervision; and the permanent loss of the right to have firearms.

The Wisconsin Justice Initiative spent dozens of hours reviewing Milwaukee County possession of marijuana – second offense files. Certain patterns of enforcement — where arrests are made and the demographics of the arrested and charged — are clear and disturbing. We have relevant details of the first five cases examined posted and will update the chart and map regularly.

The State Public Defender’s office recommended in its 2017-19 budget request that first and second offense marijuana possession cases both be considered municipal ordinance violations rather than crimes. (Currently, simple possession is a misdemeanor for the first offense under state law, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.) That recommendation went exactly nowhere, even though it would save the office about $500,000.

Various bills have been introduced to change the rules on pot possession, but their futures are uncertain, to say the least. But the law clearly, definitely needs to change.

Gretchen Schuldt writes a blog for Wisconsin Justice Initiative, whose mission is “To improve the quality of justice in Wisconsin by educating the public about legal issues and encouraging civic engagement in and debate about the judicial system and its operation.

More about the Legalizing of Marijuana

Read more about Legalizing of Marijuana here

Categories: Op-Ed

One thought on “Cannabis Backers Switch Focus to Local Laws”

  1. sbaldwin001 says:

    “Everyone knows someone with a condition that marijuana can treat,” said Marsch.

    This is a very dangerous statement, and I urge Mr. Marsh to retract it. If this continues to be a selling point, I hope physician groups weigh-in. He is making the case that marijuana is indeed a drug.

    Furthermore, he neglects to acknowledge the danger that marijuana poses to mental health. Here’s a statement from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

    “Cannabis use is associated with the development of schizophrenia and other psychoses (loss of reality). The risk is highest for the most frequent users. Heavy cannabis users are more likely to report thoughts of suicide than non-users. Long-term cannabis users are more likely to develop social anxiety disorder than non-users.”

    Also, regarding the potential economic benefits, I am doubtful. They are unlikely to come from agriculture. Californian and Mexico already have the capacity to overwhelm any local growers. There might be some profits from distribution, but think on the scale of pizza delivery. Here’s more detail: “After ‘Green Rush,’ Canada’s Legal Pot Suppliers Are Stumbling” by Ian Austen, The New York Times, April 18, 2021. Note: Exeter, Ontario is approximately the same latitude as Milwaukee.

    The statement made by Mr. Baas of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce is thoughtful. I am glad provisions allowing employers to enforce drug policies remain in place. However, I worry that widespread use of cannabis, or even the perception of widespread use, may give the edge to other states in the recruitment of entry-level manufacturers. Milwaukee desperately needs the jobs that these employers can provide. Their wages and opportunities for skill development are likely to be better than anything marijuana can provide.

    Opponents of legalization are not “just stuck in their ways”. There are legitimate concerns about the unintended consequences. Wisconsin’s economy needs to be built on rock and not sand.

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