Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, who was reelected in November and will be sworn in for his second term in early January, has promised to reintroduce legislation legalizing recreational marijuana into his upcoming state budget, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. Evers repeatedly introduced plans to legalize and decriminalize cannabis during his first term in office, but was unable to garner sufficient Republican support.
Recognizing that he may not be able to overcome GOP opposition, Evers has said he will support a compromise measure legalizing medical marijuana if lawmakers can come to an agreement.
Thirty-seven states and D.C. have legalized medical marijuana and twenty-one states and D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana, including Wisconsin’s midwestern neighbors Illinois and Michigan. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has promised to legalize recreational marijuana by May 2023.
Public support for legalization in Wisconsin remains strong. A 2019 Marquette University Law School poll found that 83% of Wisconsin voters support legalizing medical marijuana, and a 2022 Marquette poll found that 61% of voters support legalizing recreational marijuana, including 51% of Republicans.
What Is the Current State of Marijuana Laws in Wisconsin?
Despite public support for legalization, the sale, possession, and use of marijuana remains illegal in Wisconsin. Cannabis is considered a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Even marijuana that has been legally prescribed by a physician in another state where medical marijuana is legal will be considered illegal contraband once it enters Wisconsin.
Although local jurisdictions in Wisconsin have acted to partially decriminalize minor marijuana possession offenses, marijuana remains illegal across the state. This means that in certain jurisdictions, the local District Attorney will choose not to prosecute certain minor marijuana-related charges.
It can be difficult and confusing, however, to track the patchwork of local ordinances. In Milwaukee, for instance, voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum in the last election calling for the legalization of recreational marijuana. That referendum has no actionable legal effect, however, and merely polled public opinion. In fact, Milwaukee has not yet passed any municipal changes to reduce enforcement of marijuana-related charges.
Penalties for Marijuana Possession in Wisconsin
Despite efforts in local municipal governments to loosen enforcement of marijuana-related offenses, it is still very possible to be arrested and charged for marijuana possession in Wisconsin. A first offense for possession of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor and may carry the penalty of up to:
- 6 months in jail
- $1000 in fines
A subsequent offense will be considered a felony and carry penalties of up to:
- 3.5 years in jail
- $10,000 in fines
Even carrying drug paraphernalia like a bong or pipe can carry harsh penalties of up to:
- 30 days in jail
- $500 in fines
These penalties can increase if you are charged with intent to distribute marijuana.
What Should You Do If You Are Charged with Marijuana Possession?
Marijuana-related offenses are still severely punished in Wisconsin. If you are charged with possession or distribution of marijuana, it is critical that you hire an attorney who has experience defending drug-related offenses.
Attorney Cherella at the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella has three decades of experience as both a Milwaukee prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney. His experience on both sides of the criminal justice system enables him to use his inside knowledge of law enforcement to create a strategic defense for his clients. He will help to ensure that your legal rights are protected, including your right against illegal search and seizure and your right to due process.
If you have been charged with a marijuana-related drug offense, contact the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella today at (414) 882-8382 to schedule a consultation.