State Behind The Times on Pot Laws?
Most states have less severe penalties. And black state residents more likely to be arrested.
Milwaukee Ald. Nik Kovac feels Wisconsin is “way behind the curve” when it comes to marijuana laws.
The state is one of 17 in which the possession, sale or cultivation of marijuana in any amount can result in criminal prosecution.
“White people are doing as much marijuana as non-white people,” Kovac said. “They’re just not getting arrested for it.”
To remedy this, Kovac co-sponsored an ordinance in 2015 that would reduce municipal ticket charges for first-time possession offenses from $250 to $500 to $0-$50.
The ordinance passed the Common Council, 10-3 and it is now in effect.
Wisconsin Policy Forum researcher Betsy Mueller said the current understanding of the law is fragmented, and a change at the state level could clarify the rules.
The Wisconsin Policy Forum has released two reports that compared Milwaukee’s marijuana policy to national standards and also the arrest trends in Milwaukee.
Senior researcher Joe Peterangelo, who worked on the report, said that enforcement was inconsistent and also deprioritized here.
Although marijuana-related arrests were decreasing, the report still cited clear racial disparities within those trends. One review of MPD arrest data showed that African-Americans and individuals who live in poorer areas of the city are more likely to be arrested for possessing marijuana.
African-Americans were the subject of 72 percent of the 3,903 arrests that occurred in the city from 2012 to 2015, when the possession of small amounts of marijuana was the only charge, the report noted. Blacks made up 39 percent of the city’s population at the time.
Doubts about any changes to law
Opposition to a policy change remains strong, and many political observers do not believe these initiatives will make headway in the Republican-controlled legislature.
“It makes it easier to get recreational marijuana and provides a pathway to full legalization, which I do not support,” Vos said. “I’m open to medical marijuana when it’s prescribed by a doctor, but it has to be done in a targeted way without allowing recreational use.”
Robinson is a veteran who suffers from anxiety, depression and PTSD. He argues that the medicinal properties of the plant can help ease these symptoms.
Not only does he advocate for legalization, but he also thinks that Wisconsin lawmakers are ignoring their responsibilities by not regulating the substance to make sure that people use marijuana responsibly.
“It can’t kill you, but you can be uncomfortably high. It is my belief that cannabis belongs behind the counter, not on the corner,” Robinson said. By regulating marijuana, the potency and purity of the plant can be monitored and also help to deter sales to minors.
Decriminalization and expungement
Kori Ashley, a staff attorney in Legal Action’s Road to Opportunity Project, said marijuana convictions pose barriers for those seeking to work with children and other vulnerable populations, and the convictions should be expunged.
Criminal and municipal marijuana records can greatly affect people’s chances of gaining employment, finding a place to live or even going to school, Ashley added.
One of the priorities for Shanyeill McCloud is providing expungement services. She’s the founder of Second Chance Staffing, which helps connect those in prison and ex-offenders with employment opportunities.
Expungement applies to state charges, not municipal violations, and McCloud is working with Ald. Milele Coggs to introduce an ordinance that could help expunge these local tickets.
There’s also an age definition for expungement of state charges. People are eligible only if they were younger than 25 years old when they were charged and only if the offense happened in 2009 or later.
Kovac said such rules send conflicting messages. On the issue of arresting people for small marijuana possession, he said: “If we agree that it was wrong now to do it, wasn’t it wrong 10 years ago to do it?”
McCloud said she is working with state representatives and other policymakers to have the expungement age limit eliminated and also to apply retroactive expungement to those who were convicted before 2009.
“The only way that I’ll be OK with the legalization is if the people that were impacted are a part of that conversation as well,” she said, “because if you’re not talking about expunging those records and giving people that have been systematically disenfranchised and marginalized from economic opportunity, there’s no way I’m for it.”
“If black people aren’t a part of that conversation, I’m not a part of that conversation.”
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on eighteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.
More about the Legalizing of Marijuana
- Murphy’s Law: Republican Pushes for Medical Marijuana - Bruce Murphy - May 14th, 2019
- State Behind The Times on Pot Laws? - Analise Pruni - Apr 30th, 2019
- GOP Legislators Kill Medical Pot Proposal - Laurel White - Apr 26th, 2019
- Medical Marijuana Would Provide an Economic Boost to Wisconsin - State Rep. David Bowen - Apr 23rd, 2019
- Sargent Pushes Legal Pot Bill. Again - Laurel White - Apr 19th, 2019
- The Most Dangerous Thing about Marijuana in Wisconsin is that it is Illegal - State Rep. Melissa Sargent - Apr 18th, 2019
- Op Ed: Yes and No on Marijuana - Bill Kaplan - Apr 15th, 2019
- Advocates of Legal Pot Still Face Hurdles - Suzie Kazar - Apr 7th, 2019
- Legislature Urged to Clarify Pot Laws - John Davis - Mar 27th, 2019
- Op Ed: State Is Ready for Medical Marijuana - State Sen. Jon Erpenbach - Feb 23rd, 2019
- The Contrarian: Evers Dead Wrong On Pot Convictions - George Mitchell - Feb 20th, 2019
- Evers Proposes Medical Marijuana - Laurel White - Feb 19th, 2019
- Rep. Zamarripa Statement on Gov. Evers Plan to Legalize Medical Marijuana - State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa - Feb 18th, 2019
- Shilling Backs Gov. Evers’ Medical Marijuana Push - State Sen. Jennifer Shilling - Feb 18th, 2019
- Bowen Applauds Governor Evers’ Marijuana Proposals - State Rep. David Bowen - Feb 18th, 2019
- Sen. Erpenbach Applauds Gov. Evers’ Medical Marijuana Proposal - State Sen. Jon Erpenbach - Feb 18th, 2019
- Gov. Evers Announces Proposal to Reform Wisconsin’s Marijuana Laws - Gov. Tony Evers - Feb 18th, 2019
- WJI supports Gov. Evers’ cannabis initiative - Wisconsin Justice Initiative - Feb 18th, 2019
- The State of Politics: Republicans May Oppose Medical Marijuana - Steven Walters - Jan 28th, 2019
- Court Watch: Chisholm Supports Fully Legal Pot - Gretchen Schuldt - Jan 2nd, 2019
- Everyone Wants Legal Pot! - Gretchen Schuldt - Dec 31st, 2018
- Will Referendums Lead to Legal Pot? - Edgar Mendez - Nov 16th, 2018
- A Sweep for Marijuana Referendums! - Gretchen Schuldt - Nov 7th, 2018
- 52 Legislative Candidates Support Legal Pot - Isiah Holmes - Oct 11th, 2018
- Election Asks Voters About Legal Pot - John Davis - Sep 29th, 2018
- Pot Referendums on November Ballot - Gretchen Schuldt - Aug 30th, 2018
- Roys Releases Video Outlining Benefits to Legalizing Cannabis in Wisconsin - Kelda Roys - Jul 26th, 2018
- County Board Okays Pot Referendum - Gretchen Schuldt - May 25th, 2018
- County Board Overwhelmingly Approves Marijuana Referendum for November 6 Ballot - Sup. John F. Weishan, Jr. - May 24th, 2018
- Court Watch: Just 13% of City’s Pot Cases Involve Whites - Gretchen Schuldt - May 15th, 2018
- MKE County: Committee Okays Referendum on Legalizing Pot - Graham Kilmer - May 10th, 2018
- Public Hearing on Proposed Marijuana Referendum Set for Thursday - Sup. John F. Weishan, Jr. - May 9th, 2018
- Photo Gallery: Cannabis Marchers Demand Legalization - Jack Fennimore - May 7th, 2018
- Supervisor Weishan Proposing Marijuana Referendum for November Ballot - Sup. John F. Weishan, Jr. - May 3rd, 2018
- March for Cannabis – 8th Annual March to Legalize Cannabis in Wisconsin - Southeastern WI NORML - Apr 27th, 2018
- Op Ed: Public Opposes Trump Crackdown on Pot - Casey Hoff - Jan 6th, 2018
- Op Ed: Anti-Marijuana Campaign Is Misguided - Isiah Holmes - Dec 8th, 2017
- Op Ed: Don’t Legalize Marijuana - Bob Dohnal - Dec 6th, 2017
- Matt Flynn Comes Out in Favor of Legalizing Marijuana - Matt Flynn - Nov 14th, 2017
- Dem Lawmakers Push To Legalize Medical Marijuana - Dave Fidlin - Nov 2nd, 2017
- Legalizing Pot Could Be Windfall For Wisconsin - Gretchen Schuldt - Sep 29th, 2017
- Op Ed: Reduce Penalties for Pot Possession - Gretchen Schuldt - Aug 7th, 2017
- Op Ed: We Must Legalize Marijuana - State Rep. David Crowley - Jul 21st, 2017
- Gov. Scott Walker Defense of Taking Donation From Marijuana Industry Advocates While Calling For More Drug Testing: $25,000 Check Too Small to Influence Him - One Wisconsin Now - Jul 21st, 2017