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Wisconsin Desperately Needs to Reform Marijuana Laws

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In Wisconsin, being charged with possession of marijuana results in a felony. Reports indicate that the majority of marijuana-related arrests are African American males – specifically arrested in Milwaukee north of I-94. A large portion of the arrests stem from simple traffic stops where an officer mentions smelling marijuana.

District Attorney John Chisolm doesn’t like the second offense law currently in place, according to Shepherd Express. The DA’s office reviews cases provided by law enforcement. The second offense felony marijuana law is typically only charged when prior felonies, violence or possible violence are a factor.

The majority of those charged with the second offense felony marijuana law are African American. Wisconsin Justice Initiative has done some research by mapping arrest locations. They’ve also looked at arrest details. In cases reviewed in 2016, the first 30 cases they looked into revealed that 87-percent were African American and 97-percent of those cases were male. Going a step further, their investigation shows that 77-percent of the arrests made for marijuana-related charges came from the Milwaukee area north of I-94.

A bill has been introduced in the state legislature that would reduce penalties for first and second offenses regarding possession of small amounts of marijuana. Instead of being carted off to jail, offenders would receive a municipal violation – with a punishment of “forfeitures of up to $100”. The bill, however, is just sitting in Committee not making progress – some say it’s because the bill is “waiting for Wisconsin to catch up to the 21st Century”.