Republican Rep. Adam Jarchow and Democratic Sen. Fred Risser, Rep. Evan Goyke and Rep. Jonathan Brostoff want to reform cannabis laws in Wisconsin. Jarchow was inspired by constituents in his conservative district requested that laws governing cannabis possession be reexamined.
“If people in rural Northwestern Wisconsin in a conservative district think we need to change course, then maybe we do,” he said.
The measure would call for a $100 fine for those found in possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis. Felony charges and jail time would also be eliminated for this type of possession. Currently, Wisconsin fines a first time offender a maximum of $1000 and up to six months in jail, regardless of the amount. Second time offenders receive a felony charge. According to an analysis of the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, cannabis possession amount to 5 percent of total arrests.
“It seems to me to be pretty odd that possession of a couple joints could land you in jail or prison,”
Jarchow said. Sen.
Fred Risser said that cannabis possession doesn’t harm other citizens and therefore should be punished accordingly.
Although Jarchow’s conservative district seems to support the measure, the four sponsors will face strong opposition in a Republican-controlled legislature. Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald have not supported any sort of cannabis legalization, but Jarchow said he spoke to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and was hopeful due to his support of medical marijuana legalization. Wisconsin is typically considered a red state, and its ten electoral votes went to Trump in the November election. Combined with a Republican state legislature, Jarchow will certainly be facing partisan political opposition.
“I’m not naive to think that we are going to pass this and get it signed into law,”
Jarchow said, but he hopes this will inspire an open dialogue concerning drug law.
Wisconsin has a very limited medical marijuana law that allows patients with seizures limited access to CBD oil. The law itself is different from other states with larger programs, in that it prohibits criminal penalties for registered patients rather than legalizing it for those patients. In February, a state bill to expand the current law was introduced, but it has not made significant process in the state legislature. Governor Scott Walker did sign a bill in April that would allow more patients to possess CBD oil, but the bill has no provisions for starting a regulated medical marijuana program.