Since the sale and possession of recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado in 2014, the attitude toward cannabis use and legalization has largely shifted across the United States. People in many states have seen cannabis-related propositions on ballots, and state legislatures have voted on many proposals involving medical marijuana, recreational marijuana, hemp, and the decriminalization of marijuana possession. With so many changes, it can be difficult to know the law and the potential consequences of marijuana possession.
Recreational Marijuana is Illegal in Wisconsin
At the time of this writing, ten states and Washington, D.C. have legalized marijuana purchase and use for adults over the age of 21. The following are states in which you can legally possess certain amounts of cannabis without special medical authority:
- District of Columbia
It is easy to see that Wisconsin is NOT one of the states with legal recreational marijuana. Marijuana is still considered to be a controlled substance in Wisconsin, and it is against the law to possess, distribute, or cultivate recreational marijuana in any amount. Even possessing a single joint or edible piece can result in an arrest and criminal charges.
Many states with legal marijuana have enjoyed a surge in “cannabis tourism,” when people from other states visit to experience what it is like to purchase and use marijuana recreationally without the risk of an arrest. However, it is important to keep in mind that the law strictly prohibits people from legally purchasing marijuana in one state and transporting it back to Wisconsin. This is an especially important point since Illinois seems on the brink of legalization. If someone goes to Chicago to purchase recreational cannabis products, they can face serious consequences if they then bring those products back into Wisconsin.
Medical Marijuana in Wisconsin
33 states have provisions allowing marijuana possession and use for medical purposes with the proper authority from a medical professional. While Wisconsin does technically have a medical use exemption under the law, it is an extremely limited one, and medical marijuana is not generally considered to be legal in Wisconsin due to the restrictiveness of the exemption.
Specifically, the state only allows for the use of cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, which is a hemp extract and a component of marijuana. To qualify for legal use, a CBD product must have no psychoactive effects, meaning the THC content is extremely low or nonexistent. CBD use is only legal for patients with qualifying medical conditions and with the written approval of a physician.
Even though the medical CBD law is extremely restrictive, it gets even more complicated. Because cannabis is still listed as a controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, Wisconsin does not allow in-state pharmacies, doctors, or retail stores to dispense CBD products, even if a patient is qualified to use CBD. The only places that can dispense CBD in Wisconsin are those that have received an investigational drug permit by the FDA, which are few and far between. In most cases, patients must get CBD products from out-of-state pharmacies or dispensaries and bring it back to Wisconsin. This is only legal if the person bringing the CBD into the state has the proper authority from their physician to use medical CBD.
Even if your doctor believes you qualify for medical products, you can still face criminal possession charges if you possess marijuana products containing THC. If you purchase medical marijuana with THC at an out-of-state dispensary, you can be arrested for bringing those products into Wisconsin.
Wisconsin has not Decriminalized Marijuana Possession
To make matters more serious, Wisconsin has not yet decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. In addition to the states with legal marijuana, 15 more have effectively decriminalized possession for personal use under a certain amount, which means that getting caught will not result in a criminal conviction or run the risk of jail time. Instead, people in the decriminalized states will incur a civil infraction and pay a fine.
If you are arrested with any amount of marijuana in Wisconsin, however, you can still face criminal charges. For a first possession offense, you can face the following under Wisconsin’s criminal drug statute:
- A misdemeanor conviction on your record
- Up to six months in jail
- Fines up to $1,000
The penalties can substantially increase for a second or subsequent offense, and may include:
- A felony conviction on your record
- Up to 3.5 years in state prison
- Fines up to $10,000
If you are convicted of possessing any amount of marijuana for the second time, you will be a felony offender, and you will be subject to all of the lasting consequences that come with a felony record. It is critical to avoid even a first conviction whenever possible, and you should call a Wisconsin drug offense lawyer as soon as possible if you are arrested for marijuana.
Recent Attempts to Relax Wisconsin’s Cannabis Laws Have Failed
These strict laws remain in place in Wisconsin even though many neighboring states are legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana, and despite changing public opinion among much of Wisconsin’s population. Very recently, Governor Tony Evers proposed a plan to initialize a much broader medical marijuana allowance, including THC products, as well as to decriminalize marijuana possession. The legislature swiftly and successfully blocked the proposal, however, signaling that it may still be some time before marijuana laws relax in Wisconsin.
Because there are strict laws still in place and actively enforced by Wisconsin authorities, it is essential that anyone facing marijuana possession charges seek representation from an experienced criminal defense lawyer to limit or eliminate the consequences they face.
Contact an Appleton Drug Possession Attorney for the Help You Need
At Hogan Eickhoff, our skilled drug defense lawyers represent individuals facing drug possession charges in Appleton, Green Bay, Oshkosh, and other areas of Wisconsin. We offer free consultations, and it is always worth it to discuss how our defense team can assist you. Call (920) 450-9800 or contact us online to schedule an appointment today.