Some Milwaukee city leaders are pushing to eliminate fines for small amounts of marijuana. Two Milwaukee alders want to get rid of marijuana possession fines for up to one ounce.
This comes on the heels of Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal to legalize weed in Wisconsin. Republicans who control the legislature say that won’t be happening anytime soon.
Currently, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana in Milwaukee costs people who are caught between $50 to $500. Nataline Dismukes stands by city alders who believe now is the time to zero out those fines.
“I feel it would give people a second chance and I feel that a lot of the times it's personal use,” Dismukes said.
Alderwoman Marina Dimitrijevic is spearheading the effort. She says Milwaukee would be following Madison’s lead. The capital city passed a municipal ordinance last fall allowing adults to possess small amounts of cannabis and paraphernalia.
“We really don’t think we need to be filling up jail cells with people that have 1 ounce or less,” Dimitrijevic said.
Dimitrijevic said she and Alderman Khaliff Rainey are frustrated by the racial disparities of marijuana fines. A recent ACLU study found Black people are 3.2 times more likely to receive possession citations in Milwaukee than white people.
“It’s unacceptable and in government, if we’re not actively working to make changes in these injustices and inequities, I feel that we’re supporting a structure that’s enabling it,” Dimitrijevic said.
Milwaukee municipal court data shows charges for possession of marijuana have decreased substantially over the past decade. In 2010, nearly 2,300 citations were issued. That number has dropped each year since with about 400 in 2020.
At the county level, some Milwaukee County supervisors are pushing to drop marijuana fines to $1 for possession up to 25 grams, which is just shy of an ounce.
Gov. Evers is urging state lawmakers to go all-in on legalizing marijuana and to tax it to boost revenue. Illinois netted more than $200 million in state taxes from recreational marijuana sales last year. Michigan says it has made about $50 million off marijuana taxes and business fees.
"The last thing we should do as a state is be greedy and make a decision based on the projected revenue that we might get for that,” Rep. Scott Allen of Waukesha told TMJ4 News in February.
Rep. Allen says he remains opposed given a lack of research.
"The problem is that we cannot have peer-to-peer reviewed medical studies as that as a drug whether it's ethically or its side effects because it is classified as a harmful drug,” he said.
Alderwoman Dimitrijevic said her proposal on marijuana reform in Milwaukee will be heard in a committee meeting next week. She said if the committee offers approval, it would go to the full Common Council for debate a few weeks later.