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Milwaukee leaders answer community's questions about state and local marijuana laws

Posted at 10:40 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 23:40:00-04

MILWAUKEE — Leaders in Milwaukee answered people's questions about state and local marijuana laws in a virtual information session Tuesday night.

Marijuana is illegal in Wisconsin, and lawmakers say they expect it to be that way for some time. Penalties may vary depending on where you are in the state.

The event was called Legalize MKE Education Series and it was hosted by the Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Network. Panelists included Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer, State Sen. Lena Taylor, Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office Chief of Staff Ted Chisolm, Erik Marsch of the Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Network, as well as a few others.

Back in March, the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors voted to approve a resolution reducing county fines to $1 for marijuana possession of 25 grams or less.

"I want people to be able to understand, you're kind of in an island here in Milwaukee County," said County Supervisor and state Rep. Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, D-Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Alderwoman Chantia Lewis said the Common Council is working on a similar rule, in which they are instead trying to eliminate the fine altogether for the same amount of marijuana.

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"This is not us legalizing marijuana because only the state can do so," Lewis said. "This is us taking a small step, which is a huge effort in the disparity sense, but a small step to say this is something you won't be severely penalized for."

A study by the Wisconsin ACLU finds Black Wisconsinites are more than four times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession in the state, despite similar usage.

In February, Gov. Tony Evers called for marijuana legalization in his budget plan, saying it would generate $165 million in new revenue, but it was rejected in committee in early May.

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Back when the budget plan was announced, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) called it a "poison pill" that had zero chance of passing in the Legislature.

In April, state Senate Majority Leader Devin Lemahieu (R-Ootsburg) said there is not enough support from Republican lawmakers to pass it through the state Senate, and that instead discussions around legalization should happen on the federal level.

A 2019 Marquette University Law School Poll found nearly 60 percent of Wisconsin voters say they believe marijuana should be legal.

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