As legislative session winds down, Rep. Melissa Sargent introduces two more pot-related bills

Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) reports that she introduced two new cannabis-related proposals Friday, Feb. 5: LRB-3908, relating to: repeat offenses of possession of marijuana and LRB-3978, relating to: expungement of non-felony possession of marijuana offenses. Both bills seek to reduce the harms associated with a pot arrest; the first would repeal the felony for second and subsequent offenses and the second would allow the expungement of records of pot offenders convicted of non-felony offenses.

Rep. Tod Ohnstad (D- Kenosha) is the cosponsor of both bills, and with the 2015-16 legislative session rapidly winding down, the cosponsorship memo, sent Fri. Feb. 5, has a short deadline of Monday, Feb. 8 at 4:00pm.

LRB-3908

TO: All Legislators
FROM: Representative Melissa Sargent and Representative Tod Ohnstad
DATE: February 5, 2016
RE: Co-Sponsorship of LRB -3908 – relating to: repeat offenses of possession of marijuana.
SHORT DEADLINE: Monday, February 8 @ 4:00p.m.

The policy of incarcerating non-violent, otherwise law-abiding marijuana offenders is crowding Wisconsin’s prisons to a dangerous level. Too often, the jail to prison pipeline begins with a simple marijuana possession charge. This is costly and unnecessary for our state.

Under current law, a first offense for possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 6 months. A second offense is a Class I felony and is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 3.5 years.

LRB 3908 would make the penalty for second and subsequent marijuana offenses a misdemeanor with a fine of no more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than six months.

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau

Under this bill, the penalty for the possession of marijuana following a conviction for a violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act is reduced from a Class I felony to a fine of no more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both, which is the same penalty as for the first offense of possession of marijuana. The penalty, however, remains a Class I felony if the repeat offense occurred on the grounds of a school or if, during the course of the repeat offense, the person carried a dangerous weapon, the person used force against another person, or a person died or suffered great bodily harm.

If you would like to co-sponsor LRB-3908, please contact Representative Sargent’s Office at 266-0960 / Rep.Sargent@legis.wi.gov by 4pm on February 8th. Melissa Sargent 8:11pm Melissa Sargent

LRB-3978

TO: All Legislators
FROM: Representative Tod Ohnstad and Representative Melissa Sargent
DATE: February 5, 2016
RE: Co-Sponsorship of LRB -3978 – relating to: expungement of non-felony possession of marijuana offenses.
SHORT DEADLINE: Monday, February 8 @ 4:00p.m.

A misdemeanor marijuana possession charge can haunt a person in terms of future employment, housing, and impact on family. Often, this can set a young person’s life on the wrong course.

LRB-3978 would allow a person who has a non-felony marijuana possession charge on their record to go to a court to get that record expunged if certain conditions are met, such as time since the conviction occurred.

This legislation would make our society a safer place by allowing those with non-violent convictions to have the freedom and opportunity to pursue a prosperous future, rather than succumbing to the jail to prison pipeline.

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau

This bill requires a court to order expunged a record for a nonfelony possession of marijuana offense under any of the following circumstances:

1) At least five years have elapsed since the conviction, the person was under the age of 21 when he or she committed the offense, and the court did not already order the record expunged.

2) At least ten years have elapsed since the conviction, the person was at least 21 but under 25 when he or she committed the offense, and the court did not already order the record expunged.

3) At least ten years have elapsed since the conviction if the person was at least 25 when he or she committed the offense.

If you would like to co-sponsor LRB-3978, please contact Representative Sargent’s Office at 266-0960 / Rep.Sargent@legis.wi.gov by 4pm on February 8th.

After the Monday deadline the bills will be submitted for formal introduction and given bill numbers and committee assignments. The proposals face an uncertain future in the legislature.

In April 2015, just months into the session, Rep. Sargent also introduced a hybrid adult use/medical use bill, AB224. That legislation along with another bill, AB246, a broad cannabis decriminalization proposal sponsored by Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee), were both assigned to the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, where they have seen no progress.

The committee is chaired by anti-pot zealot, Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc), husband of Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who has refused to schedule public hearings, a pattern established in earlier sessions since the GOP attained majority control of both houses of the legislature beginning Jan. 2011. The new bills from Rep. Sargent could easily end up in the same committee, but regardless of which committee they are assigned, they will likely face an uphill battle.

Even AB215, an industrial hemp bill with a single GOP cosponsor, remains stuck in a different committee whose chairman has twice ignored two open letters from the bill sponsor requesting a hearing.

Only SB221/AB228, GOP sponsored bipartisan legislation to remove the need for a prescription to possess cannabidiol (CBD), has received committee hearings and votes and is headed for a floor vote in both chambers.

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