Rep. Mandela Barnes introduces cannabis decriminalization bill

Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee) seen here at a 2013 hearing, introduced state cannabis decriminalization legislation Monday April 20. (Copyright

At a morning press conference, State Rep. Mandela Barnes today marked 4/20 by introducing legislation – LRB-1353 – that would decriminalize the possession of 25 grams or under and remove the felony for a second offense. reported the choice of April 20, “4/20” as the date of his announcement was intentional:

“Representative Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee) made no secret he chose today — what’s commonly known as a national pot smoking holiday — as the day to suggest the bill.

“As it’s become a date for recreation, it should be a date for enlightenment for people who just don’t understand the cost the cost to society,” he said.”

CBS58-WDJT had more about Rep. Barnes’ proposal:

“The bill would not legalize the drug, but take away the felony charge currently associated with it. People caught with it could still be fined. Those fines would be determined at a local level. Representative Barnes says he’s introducing this because it can lessen the burden on state prisons . He says African-Americans are arrested five times more often than whites for marijuana possession. He says getting hit with felony charge for marijuana can set someone back for a long time – and in some cases lead to even more problems like violence.

“I would not doubt that the fact that people who receive felonies from marijuana possession, that may impact their lifestyle choices,” Barnes said. “That may impact what type of job they are able or not able to get thus leading people to make decisions that they would not otherwise make or should not otherwise make.”

Here are the provisions of Rep. Barnes’ bill:

LRB-1353 Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau

Current law prohibits a person from possessing or attempting to possess; possessing with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or deliver; and manufacturing, distributing, or delivering marijuana. The penalties vary based on the amount of marijuana or plants involved or the number of previous controlled-substance convictions the person has. Current law also allows local governments to enact ordinances prohibiting the possession of marijuana.

This bill eliminates 1) the penalty for possession of marijuana if the amount of marijuana involved is no more than 25 grams; 2) the penalty for manufacturing or for possessing with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or deliver if the amount of marijuana involved is no more than 25 grams or the number of plants involved is no more than two; and 3) the penalty for distributing or delivering marijuana if the amount of marijuana involved is no more than 25 grams or the number of plants involved is no more than two. The bill retains the current-law penalty for distributing or delivering any amount of marijuana to a person who is no more than 17 years of age (minor) by a person who is at least three years older than the minor. This bill limits local governments to enacting ordinances prohibiting only the possession of more than 25 grams of marijuana.

The bill also prohibits establishing probable cause that a person is violating the prohibition against possessing more than 25 grams of marijuana by an odor of marijuana or by the possession of not more than 25 grams of marijuana.

Current law requires that, when determining the weight of controlled substances, the weight includes the weight of the controlled substance together with any compound, mixture, or other substance mixed or combined with the controlled substance. Under this bill, when determining the amount of tetrahydrocannabinols, only the weight of the marijuana may be considered.

For further information see the state and local fiscal estimate, which will be printed as an appendix to this bill.


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