Have you heard the news regarding the possible legalization of marijuana in Wisconsin? Our team of drug lawyers is on the pulse. On February 7, 2021, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced he wants the state to legalize marijuana. His new biennial budget proposal includes regulating and taxing the currently illicit substance just like it does alcohol. Wisconsin would be following the path of 15 other states that have already legalized recreational marijuana use. The inaugural year of legal cannabis in Illinois saw almost $1 billion in sales, which generated $100 million in state tax revenue. That figure doesn’t include tax revenue earned for other municipalities like counties and cities.

Gov. Evers hopes to increase revenue, create jobs, and diminish costs associated with the criminal justice system through marijuana legalization. Legalizing marijuana is anticipated to generate over $165 million in revenue each year beginning in 2023, should the measure pass.

The question remains as to how marijuana legalization will potentially impact Wisconsin criminal laws. All other states that have legalized the sale and use of marijuana to any extent have had necessary changes to their criminal laws.

Current Marijuana Legalization Proposals

The current proposed laws regarding the legalization of marijuana include:

  • Marijuana legalization would be overseen by the Department of Revenue and the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection
  • The sale of recreational-use marijuana would be legal if sold by a marijuana retailer holding a permit issued by the state
  • People would have to be 21 years old to purchase recreational use marijuana
  • The sale or purchase of recreational marijuana to minors would be illegal
  • A way for medical marijuana users to receive the drug without paying retail taxes
  • State residents can’t possess more than two ounces of marijuana and six plants for personal use
  • Nonresidents of the states can’t possess more than 0.25 ounces of marijuana
  • Marijuana sold in Wisconsin has to be grown in Wisconsin

However, many other provisions must be made in order to effectively manage the changes that marijuana could bring to the state’s legal system.

Will Previous Marijuana-Related Convictions be Impacted?

Legalizing medical and recreational marijuana sales and use doesn’t necessarily mean the erasure of previous arrest records or convictions involving the same. How Wisconsin will handle this remains to be seen. Rest assured that when the time comes, you can discuss your options with an Appleton drug lawyer. They can determine if you can expunge your arrest records or convictions and how to go about doing so.

North Dakota created a streamlined process for those convicted of low-level marijuana offenses. An individual is eligible for a pardon related to past marijuana convictions under that state’s new policy if they have not broken any criminal laws within five years prior. However, the streamlined policy doesn’t cover convictions for intent to deliver, manufacturing, or delivering marijuana.

In South Dakota, where new marijuana legalization laws go into effect in July, those convicted on such charges will be required to individually ask the court for expungement of arrest records or seek a pardon through the state’s Governor and the Board of Pardons and Parole.

Impacts for Law Enforcement Officers and Potential Criminals

Cost and Time Savings

Suppose Wisconsin follows through with legalizing these marijuana provisions. In that case, law enforcement officers will have more time, energy, and mental capacity to home in on higher priority crimes. Arrest rates will drop, and fewer lives will be permanently damaged by arrest records. Both criminal justice systems and people who would have been previously charged under the old laws will save money. There will be fewer people to track down and arrest and fewer penalties administered.

For example, in 2014, recreational marijuana became legal in Colorado. Felony marijuana court case filings, including those for conspiracy, manufacturing, distribution, and possession with intent to sell in 2017, were 907—a figure far below the number of 2008 filings of 1,431.

Searches and Seizures

Another impact is how law enforcement officers can perform searches and seizures. For example, if an officer saw a joint in the ashtray and has no other information, they would lack a reason to search. In this circumstance, they wouldn’t have any reason to suspect that the individual had committed a crime.

Large amounts of marijuana give officers of the law reason to search further. Searches that begin with officers locating any amount of marijuana sometimes led them to uncover evidence of much more severe criminal activity. Suppose marijuana is legalized as the governor wants it to be in Wisconsin. In that case, there will be fewer searches that are going to happen. There might be a reduction in overall criminal cases due to the new status of marijuana. The downside is that some major crimes might go unnoticed and unprosecuted.

Pretrial Release, Probation, and Parole

Breaking any law can send people on pretrial release, probation, and parole to go back to jail or prison. In states that have legalized marijuana, they don’t risk violating those conditions by using or selling legal amounts of marijuana. Although, judges and their state’s Department of Corrections can still use special requirements for defendants not to use marijuana, just as they can with alcohol. People should always check with their Appleton drug lawyer to find out what is or isn’t permissible for them.

Driving While High

Many studies reveal that driving while high substantially impairs driving ability. As forerunner states like Colorado and Washington found, there must be laws that address driving while under the influence of marijuana, just like traditional DUI laws address drinking and driving. Law enforcement officers and other staff may need additional training in how to recognize if someone is high. If Wisconsin legalizes marijuana use, laws will be necessary to address how high is too high to drive and what happens to those who drive under the influence of marijuana.

Do You Have Questions about Marijuana Legalization or Charges in Wisconsin? Call a Knowledgeable Appleton Drug Attorney Today

Maybe you were previously arrested or convicted on marijuana charges or are facing them now. Perhaps you are looking forward to being able to legally partake and simply have questions. Contact a knowledgeable Appleton drug attorney at Hogan Eickhoff today by calling (920) 450-9800. We offer free consultations to all potential clients.