State lawmakers propose bipartisan marijuana criminal reform bill

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 9:24 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2021 at 10:15 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Wisconsin democrats and republicans are teaming up to reform Wisconsin’s marijuana laws.

Some lawmakers say the current law has led to a backlog in the court system as prosecutors deal with low level drug crimes. Yet, a recent proposal doesn’t include legalizing medical or recreational marijuana.

“I’ve never actually used marijuana and yet I’m the biggest advocate for saying, ‘look let people make their own life decisions,’” Rep. Shae Sortwell, R-Two Rivers, said.

Sortwell co-sponsored the bipartisan bill aimed at changing how law enforcement prosecute people in possession of cannabis. The full text of the proposed legislation can be found below.

Under current law, a first time offender with 14 grams or less of marijuana faces up to six months in jail and a fine of no more than $1,000.

In Sortwell’s proposal that jail time could be dropped to a $100 fine.

“It’s not beneficial for our state, it’s not beneficial for our communities to automatically criminalize somebody because they’re making a life decision you and I disagree with,” Sortwell said.

The Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Network supports the proposed legislation.

“So it’s basically simply you know changing the statue to make simple marijuana possession, a fine not a crime,” Jay Selthofner of the Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Network said.

According to the Selthofner, the proposed legislation creates a uniform statue on penalizing marijuana possession that all 72 counties and its municipalities will use.

“This is the first time I saw the removing of the paraphernalia as part of the package, so that’s something that I’m kind of proud of,” Selthofner said.

What the proposed legislation does not do is legalize medical or recreational marijuana. Wisconsin is surrounded by states that have decriminalized cannabis. Illinois and Michigan for instance have taxed the sale of marijuana.

“I don’t think Wisconsin is there right now. I know the legislature is not there right now. Obviously, the governor proposed it in his budget,” Shortwell said.

Democratic Governor Tony Evers proposed legalizing recreational marijuana in his budget earlier this year, but the GOP-led legislature stripped it out.

Here’s a copy of the full bill:

21-3790_1 by WBAY on Scribd

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