Wisconsin to get tougher on marijuana laws

Categories: Weird Wisconsin
marijuanaplant.jpg
Coleen Danger
Wisconsin legislators approved a bill Tuesday that gives local municipalities more power to punish marijuana use.

As it stands, municipal courts in Wisconsin have the right to prosecute first-time offenders who are found in possession of less than 25 grams. Anyone arrested more than once goes to the circuit court level.

But with Gov. Scott Walker's signature, those same courts would have the right to punish repeat offenders, so long as the district attorney in that area declines to prosecute.

In other words, Wisconsin is becoming tougher on pot while Minnesota -- and the rest of the country -- appears to be chilling out.

SEE ALSO: Barack Obama disagrees with Sheriff Stanek about the dangers of pot

Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, a Republican from Fond du Lac who's sponsoring the bill, insists that it's about fixing "an odd scenario" in the law. His own municipality, he adds, would be glad to pick up more cases. There were 20 instances between August 2011 and 2013 where the Fond du Lac district attorney declined to prosecute repeat offenders, Thiesfeldt says.

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Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt
Personally, Thiesfeldt subscribes to the gateway theory of pot -- that smoking it leads people to harder drugs.

"We want to be raising good citizens who aren't dabbling in that kind of thing," he says.

Thiesfeldt's opinion of marijuana runs counter to the majority of Americans'. A 2013 Gallup poll indicated that 58 percent were supportive of legalizing the drug outright. That number was only 12 percent in 1969.

"I won't deny that," Thiesfeldt says. "I'm hoping it's something that's going to run its course."

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Rep. Evan Goyke
Rep. Evan Goyke, a Democrat from Milwaukee, is skeptical of the argument that this bill is actually about holding people accountable in a system with limited resources to prosecute. He points out that the significant differences between circuit and municipal courts in Wisconsin -- for example, no right to an attorney and no Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizures.

"What's this really about?" Goyke says. "It's about revenue."

Although the neighbor states have roughly the same number of people and similar demographics, Wisconsin authorities reported 16,111 arrests for possession of marijuana in 2011. Minnesota authorities reported less than half that -- 7,453.

The way Goyke sees it, Minnesota has done a better job at weighing the costs of prosecution against the social impact of people's bad behavior. Whereas in Wisconsin, he says, the prevailing ideology is, "We're doing to double down on the theory that we can arrest our way out of people smoking marijuana. And that's not gonna work."

-- Follow Jesse Marx on Twitter @marxjesse or send tips to jmarx@citypages.com


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112 comments
OnePercenter
OnePercenter

Why can't we just give this tiny, worthless state to Canada? Wisconsin is hands down the worst state in the US.

WhiskyMax
WhiskyMax

In other news Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt proves he is one of the most clueless and out of touch state representatives in the nation. 

rhinelanderkarate
rhinelanderkarate

As an amputee, cancer survivor and long time Wisconsin resident...this article makes me sick. I personally as well as many others have struggled with prescription pain killers to try and maintain an active lifestyle. The fact is that marijuana is a safer, healthier alternative that would allow me to live almost pain free and not have the side effects that come with Rx's, for anyone to say I don't have the right to a healthier way of living or that Tramadol, Percocet and Vicodin is better for me is just ridiculous.

saintbag
saintbag

I'm assuming since Wisconsin is at the behest of the Koch brothers, the prisons are being privatized, if they haven't been already. It's very convenient to imprison more people for profit. The American way!

Dan Paar
Dan Paar

Good old Wisconsin. They just keep getting worse & worse since they voted in the tea party! What a bunch of assholes & idiots!

nothern_lights
nothern_lights

"I won't deny that," Thiesfeldt says. "I'm hoping it's something that's going to run its course." 

No asshhat Thiesfeld... it will be you who is running the short course.  


Andy Flick
Andy Flick

what waste of money and resources

Courtney Hannon
Courtney Hannon

Because getting 10 DUI's is okay, but smoking pot and not endangering any lives is completely irrational.

Brian Steidl
Brian Steidl

Wisconsin comes up with more reasons to stay in Minnesota.

Donald Sergent
Donald Sergent

Hey Libby Hembd heres another reason Wisconsin can suck it

Tucker Benjamin
Tucker Benjamin

They should change their state flag to a bottle of jack and a shotgun

Rob Peterson
Rob Peterson

What do ya know, two politicians, two vastly different opinions, will common sense prevail?? Doubt it.

DavidFoureyes
DavidFoureyes topcommenter

I bet when Representative Scott Farkus up there talks, he whistles.

Isaac Martin
Isaac Martin

It's nice to know that the republicans in the legislature view the citizens of WI as livestock who are raised. I'd like to quote Mr. William Wallace in saying the following, ahem.... FFFFFFFFFFRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDDDDOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!! (as he dies at the end)

Shawnna Brittan
Shawnna Brittan

Good lord...more weed means more people eating cheese...get with it Wisconsin!!

Marcus Nielson
Marcus Nielson

Rich Rudin I can almost guaranty you are a hypocrite on this issue. Get off your high horse.

a254050
a254050

"What happens when we try to collect $200 from someone who doesn’t have $200, they don’t pay it. And they get a warrant for their arrest and then they sit in their county jails and then they don’t pay the citation. This is a terrible way to try to collect money," Goyke says.


Other Democrats say further criminalization of marijuana in Wisconsin could hurt people who might use it for pain relief. The bill has already cleared the Senate, and now goes to Gov. Walker for his signature.

midwestexplorer81
midwestexplorer81 topcommenter

Maybe this is why so many serial killers come out of Wisconsin.

Ryan Schoen
Ryan Schoen

But they allow underage drinking in bars if they are with their parents.. Smh!

Ange Runnels
Ange Runnels

What happened, Wisconsin? You used to be cool...

Aaron Mielke
Aaron Mielke

You know why it's so windy in Minnesota....because North Dakota blows and Wisconsin sucks

Nate Knudson
Nate Knudson

Yea, probably should give out more liquor licenses. That'll help.

Rich Rudin
Rich Rudin

I read these posts about legalizing Marijuana and it ALWAYS surprises me how many people support getting high. Why can't people just be happy with being sober. Why is it such a necessity to avoid reality? Are people soo WEAK that they cant live life without being wasted?

MarkM15
MarkM15

Bad behavior? This writer is brainwashed. If pot use is "bad behavior," just how naughty am I being by meeting my friends after work and having a beer?

Paul Bailey
Paul Bailey

Raising? What is the government taking on the parental role?

McLain Causey
McLain Causey

Sounds like the legislature really has their finger on the pulse of what's important.

Victor Hart
Victor Hart

There are people in Wisconsin still driving after multiple DUI's, and after no jail time. Yet small amounts of marijuana will land you in jail. It's ridiculous that the facts about alcohol abuse are ignored, while the truth about marijuana is ignored. Unfounded biases.

McLain Causey
McLain Causey

Wisconsin is like Minnesota's sister who was dropped on her head as an infant.

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

funny that all comments are from dissenters. ALL COMMENTS

DavidFoureyes
DavidFoureyes topcommenter

Was it really necessary to spoil the ending to Braveheart here? Christ. Isaac Martin is a spoiler.

mark.schuh
mark.schuh

nothing weak about enjoying something. Can I call people weak because they don't enjoy eating steaks like I do.. damn those weak leaf eaters.. i mean seriously, would you rather see people get fined and thrown in jail with criminal records for possession making them ineligible to find decent jobs for partaking in marijuana? if so then you are screwed up.

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