Legislation introduced in Wisconsin would decriminalize cannabis possession up to an ounce, expunge criminal records for possessing 28 grams or less, and prohibit police from searching vehicles based on the smell of cannabis, WUWM reports. The legislation is backed by the state’s Democrats, including Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes.
Barnes, who is African-American, said that in his hometown of Milwaukee, 40 percent of the population is African-American but represent 72 percent of all cannabis arrests in the city. Barnes said that research in the state has found “black people are four times more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested for marijuana offense while also being more likely to serve prison time for it.”
“Simple marijuana possession and/or use is not a reason for anyone to serve a prison sentence, lose out on a job, nor lose their voting rights.” — Barnes, on Twitter
Democratic state Rep. David Crowley said that the plan is aimed at social justice, saying that lawmakers “we want to provide a much-needed path for those previously convicted of these crimes to make sure they can get their records cleared.”
A previous decriminalization bill introduced in the state in 2017 included five Republican co-sponsors but that measure did not provide the criminal reforms that the new legislation includes.
Gov. Tony Evers said earlier this year that he would include a decriminalization plan when he unveiled his next state budget. That proposal would remove all state-level criminal penalties for possessing, manufacturing or distributing cannabis in amounts less than 25 grams and allow for expungement.
In 2014, state lawmakers introduced adult-use legalization legislation but it never made it to the floor for a vote.
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