Gretchen Schuldt
Court Watch

Any Whites Nabbed for Pot Possession?

Research of Milwaukee County cases show whites rarely arrested.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Aug 28th, 2017 11:12 am

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.

Research has shown that blacks and whites use drugs at roughly the same rates. And Milwaukee County is mostly (about 65 percent) white. So you might expect that most pot arrests would involve whites, but that is not the case.

The issue becomes all the more critical for second offense possession, which is still a felony in Wisconsin, even as some states have legalized marijuana.

With that in mind, the Wisconsin Justice Initiative has spent hours examining Circuit Court files to find who gets busted for second offense marijuana possession, where they get busted, and what happens to them.

Note, we are looking at only those cases where the defendant was charged ONLY with possession of marijuana, second offense (or greater). We are not including any case where there were other charges involved.

The Marijuana Possession Second Offense Felony Scoreboard

The Marijuana Possession Second Offense Felony Scoreboard

So far we have researched 30 cases and you can find a description of each case here on The Pot Page, where we do periodic updates.

As for how the numbers break down so far, the arrests overwhelmingly involve African American men. Just two of the 30 Milwaukee County felony marijuana possession cases we’ve researched thus far involved white defendants.

Thus, 28 cases — about 94 percent — involved non-white defendants. Just two were Hispanic, while 26 involved African Americans. And all 26 of those cases involved men.

The pattern is pretty clear: So far, 26 of 30 cases, or 87 percent, were arrests made in the city. And of those 26 cases, 88 percent (or 23 cases) were arrests made north of I-94. Pot possession second offense appears to be a charge that overwhelmingly targets black men.

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.

9 thoughts on “Court Watch: Any Whites Nabbed for Pot Possession?”

  1. Vincent Hanna says:

    Did you see the slap on the wrist those three white guys got last week? More than 600 pounds of marijuana seized along with cocaine and drug paraphernalia. None of them got any time in prison despite initially being charged with felonies. It’s great to be white.

  2. Matt says:

    Hey Vince,

    I’m always always with you but here is the question the social activists never seem to ask:

    Do you want black people to be treated like white people are, or do you want white people treated like black people are?

    I much prefer the former.

    That is why I dislike complaints about all the justice cops get when they shoot people. All people should be asking for that treatment: affordable bail, properly financed and skilled attorneys, and Judges who consider proper factors and value opportunities for rehabilitation.

    So I call foul. If 3 black guys had 600 pounds of weed and got probation in a Green Bay federal court, would you call it a slap on the wrist? Or finally some justice, since it is 2017 and we are talking about marijuana. Are we trying to solve problems, or make problems for more people so we can all feel equal in a police state?

  3. Vincent Hanna says:

    No you’re right Matt. I was speaking out of anger, but you’re right.

  4. AG says:

    Matt, I think we need harsher penalties all around. The men mentioned earlier were indeed convicted of felonies and must serve jail time of 8-12 months. But I think that is far too lenient… just like the people listed on the “pot page.” These drug producers and dealers are getting off way too easy considering they are the backbone of a large portion of the violence we see on the streets.

  5. Vincent Hanna says:

    Harsher penalties has been tried AG. Did you somehow miss the 80s and 90s, “Just Say No” and the War on Drugs? What did it accomplish? Other than Jeff Sessions you won’t find many people who want to return to those days.

  6. Sam says:

    I understand that this list is only counting those charged with pot possession, but what were the circumstances that led to these charges? Were these initially traffic stops for minor infractions? Or something else?

    I think with more in depth research, a broader picture of the discrepancy in police encounters could be produced.

  7. mkwagner says:

    I think the point of this article has been missed entirely. The fact is the war on drugs was another excuse to crack down on communities of color. While as a society, we are coming to the realization that this war on drugs has not worked, we are still waging it against African Americans. Until we as a society admit that every life in this country matters, which means Black lives matter equally; we will continue to have the systemic disparities that tear at the fabric of our social order and hold back our ability to prosper as a nation. We are our own worst enemy.

  8. Bruce Murphy says:

    Sam, you will find a description of the circumstances leading to arrests here:

  9. Sam says:

    Thanks Bruce

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