Marijuana laws are changing all across the country. Support for legalization or at least the lessening of marijuana penalties is at all-time highs. But in Wisconsin, the people seem far readier for such change than the lawmakers do.
According to The Capital Times, few of those in the legislature take marijuana legalization seriously in the state, feeling it’s a “wacky western idea that has no place in the heartland.”
While Mary Burke, democratic gubernatorial candidate, said in the past she would be open to supporting legalization, she seemed reluctant a few weeks ago, saying “I don’t think that’s where the people of Wisconsin are at.”
Burke, and many others like her, are a little off on their view of where the people are at.
The most recent poll from the Marquette University Law School showed more people were for legalization than against, with 49.7% supporting, 44.9% opposed and 4.7% unsure.
But while the people of the state are supporting progressive change in marijuana legislation, the lawmakers are moving in the opposite direction, recently giving localities more power in choosing who to prosecute on marijuana offenses, allowing them to pursue charges even when the district attorney declines.
It seems lawmakers here are simply scared of appearing too soft on crime. When passing the legislation earlier this year that allowed cities power to prosecute pot crimes, the lines were largely generational, with older Democrats making the passage possible. These are people who were put in office on the premise that they would stick it to criminals, no matter their offenses, and they cultivate a following that supports the notion of harsher penalties reducing crime (though that isn’t always the case).
Though penalties for marijuana crimes here aren’t the toughest in the nation, they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon and they certainly aren’t the most lenient.
A second offense of pot possession, no matter how much you have on you, is a felony charge that carries up to 3.5 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. While a first offense is “only” a misdemeanor, you can still be sent to jail for it.