Gretchen Schuldt
Court Watch

Chisholm Supports Fully Legal Pot

But only with adequate implementation and regulatory structures, he says.

By , Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Jan 2nd, 2019 02:06 pm
John Chisholm. Photo by Grace Fuhr.

John Chisholm. Photo by Grace Fuhr.

District Attorney John Chisholm said this week that he favors marijuana legalization if there are adequate implementation and regulatory structures in place.

“Let’s come up with the best legal framework for allowing people to possess marijuana much as they do alcohol and tobacco,” he said during an interview.

If he can find the funding, Chisholm said, he would like to hold a one-day symposium in Milwaukee to explore how other states handled legalization implementation, the challenges they faced, and what they learned from their experiences.

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis to some extent.

Wisconsin still is a full prohibition state. Second offense possession of marijuana of any amount still is a felony in the state.

Voters in 18 November referendums around the state indicated they favor cannabis legalization. Milwaukee County voters in every municipality favored legalization of recreational marijuana for adults.

Chisholm says he favors full legalization over an incremental approach. The state should ensure, before legalization takes effect, that the infrastructure is in place to ensure successful implementation and that cannabis tax revenue is distributed as intended.

Downsides to legalization, he said, could include impaired driving, and negative impacts on school performance and health.

“We just have to be cognizant of that,” he added.

In the meantime, he said, his office will continue to use alternatives to prosecution, including diversion efforts and defaulting to municipal tickets instead of criminal prosecutions, to reduce the number of marijuana cases flowing through the court system.

He said he would prosecute some cases, though, “until the law is changed.”

As a prosecutor, he said, he has significant discretion, but “it’s got to be on a rational basis.”

He can’t decide simply to not enforce the law, he said, adding:

“I’m not a super legislator.”

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.

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