Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and several democratic legislators introduced legislation that would make it legal to possess small amounts of marijuana in the state.
The legislation would decriminalize possessing 28 grams of marijuana or less.
Earlier this year state republicans shot down Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to decriminalize the drug.
Barnes and other law makers cited a 2018 study by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism that reported black residents were four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white residents.
Native American residents are three times more likely to be arrested.
The bill they say would create more job opportunities since less people would have a criminal record.
“The majority of the people of our state have spoken, they support the decriminalization of marijuana as well as our administration and everybody standing here realizes that decriminalization would help free up resources within law enforcement, our legal system and put an end to racial disparities,” says Barnes. “When it comes to those who are being punished, this is about bringing parity to the way we address criminal justice in Wisconsin.”
“I don’t know if it’s right for us to make a policy decision statewide that says using illegal drugs just simply becomes something that now is not a serious crime,” says assembly speaker Robin Vos.
An April Marquette Law School poll showed 83 percent of voters in Wisconsin say use of marijuana for medical purposes should be legal; 12 percent say it should not be.
59 percent of those same voters say marijuana use should be legal while 36 percent say it should not be legalized.
Under this proposed legislation, marijuana creation and sale would still be considered illegal.