Last week, Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin announced a bill that would end the ban on recreational cannabis.
Wisconsin State Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard announced the bill at an event at a Wisconsin hemp farm and said the status quo is more harmful than cannabis .
“I’ve said it many times, we know the most dangerous thing about cannabis in Wisconsin is that it remains illegal,” Agard said, as quoted by local news channel WSAW. “Over the past decade, I have worked to undo Wisconsin’s outdated and deeply unfair cannabis policies and put our state on a path to prosperity. »
Under the proposal, Wisconsin adults ages 21 and older could legally possess cannabis. The measure would also lay the groundwork for a legal, regulated cannabis market in the state, like many of its neighbors.
“Right now, we’re seeing our hard-earned money flow across the border into Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota, amounting to tens of millions of dollars each year. This is money we could reinvest to help our friends and neighbors and make our state a place where people want to live, work and play,” Ms. Agard was quoted as saying by WSAW.
In a statement, bill sponsor Darrin Madison said legalizing cannabis “is a matter of public safety and racial justice here in Wisconsin.”
“Wisconsin residents engage in cannabis use and deserve to be able to purchase safe cannabis and use it responsibly without being criminalized. According to the ACLU, Black people were 4.24 times more likely to be arrested than white people in Wisconsin in 2018. Similar disparities exist in sentencing, resulting in immeasurable harm to Wisconsin’s Black communities. The bill we introduced today lays a solid foundation for people who have been severely sentenced for non-violent possession charges and the ramifications of those convictions,” Mr. Madison said.
Polls also show that Wisconsinites support legalizing cannabis.
“Wisconsin is ready to legalize cannabis: 69% of Wisconsin residents, including a majority of Republicans, support full legalization of cannabis. It is high time that our state respects the will of the majority and seizes the many economic and social benefits that cannabis legalization has to offer. Let’s join the people in more than half the country who said ‘yes’ to putting the flawed policy of prohibition behind us and raise our expectations,” Agard said in a press release.
The state legislature, controlled by Republicans, may not be ready, however. Despite broad public support and support from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, Wisconsin’s Republican lawmakers have so far opposed legalization.
“Redemption and forgiveness have power, especially for people who have worked to overcome past mistakes to become productive, positive members of their communities,” Mr. Evers said in a statement released at the time. “I am grateful to be able to give a second chance to these people who have worked hard to achieve this.
Early last year, Mr. Evers vetoed a Democratic-backed measure that would have imposed harsher penalties on people arrested for drug use, calling it “another step in the wrong direction.”
“I am vetoing this bill in its entirety because I oppose the creation of additional criminal offenses or penalties related to marijuana use,” Mr. Evers said in a 2022 letter to the ‘assembly.
“It is widely accepted, and research over the past decade confirms, that the criminalization of cannabis has disproportionately impacted communities of color, particularly in Wisconsin, where incarceration rates show disparities long-standing racial conflicts,” added Mr. Evers.
Mr. Evers concluded his letter by explaining his interest in justice reform.
“States across our country, whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans, have taken and are taking significant steps to combat rising incarceration rates and reduce racial disparities by investing in drug treatment , community reentry programs, alternatives to incarceration, rehabilitation and other data- and evidence-based practices that we know are critical solutions to reforming our justice system,” the governor continued on the subject. of the question. “The data and science are clear on this issue, and I urge the Legislature to begin serious conversations about justice reform in Wisconsin.”