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Will Wisconsin ever alter its stance toward marijuana?

This past election saw marijuana legalization efforts continue to make significant inroads across the U.S. Indeed, voters in Massachusetts, Nevada, California and Maine opted to legalize the drug for recreational purposes, while voters in North Dakota, Arkansas and Florida opted to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes.

Given that well over half of the states now permit marijuana to be used for either purpose, questions have naturally arisen as to whether Wisconsin will ever follow suit.

While there is one legally recognized exception for patients with seizure disorders, allowing them to possess the non-hallucinogenic chemical cannabidiol, the state has otherwise adopted a rather draconian stance toward marijuana.  

Indeed, state law currently classifies it as a schedule I drug, much like the federal government, meaning it is viewed as having a high probability of addiction or abuse, and no recognized medical purpose.

What makes this classification significant is that since schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous, convictions for crimes associated with their manufacture, sale or possession carry the most severe penalties.

In fact, those found to be in possession of any amount of marijuana here in the Dairy State can face the following consequences upon conviction:

  • First offense: Charged as a misdemeanor, it is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail
  • Second and subsequent offenses: Charged as a class I felony, it is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to three years and six months in prison

While several bills designed to adopt a more lenient stance toward marijuana have been introduced in the legislature, most often by Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison), they have routinely failed to gain any traction.    

What this means is that until such time as the state -- or its voters -- decide to adopt the kind of progressive stance seen in other jurisdictions, residents of Wisconsin should be aware that convictions for marijuana possession will continue to have serious consequences.

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