Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) easily defeated Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee) by a 61%-39% margin in the August 10, 2016 Democratic primary for State Senate District 6. Both candidates have been strong supporters of cannabis law reform. Barnes had to give up his Assembly seat to run for the senate. The primary for his old seat was won by former Rep. Jason Fields, whom Barnes defeated in 2012. Taylor and Fields are unopposed in November.
Mandela Barnes sponsored or cosponsored 5 cannabis bills in the 2015-2016 session. Barnes was the lead sponsor of AB246/SB167, a comprehensive and broad decriminalization measure which was perhaps the most innovative pot bill to come out of the legislature in years. Fiscal estimates from state agencies found AB246/SB167 had the potential to save taxpayers millions of dollars. The bill died in a committee chaired by Rep. Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) without a public hearing or vote. Hopefully one of his colleagues will pick it up in the next session.
In a May 5, 2016 Q&A with Jessie Opoien of the Capital Times Mandela Barnes said this about AB246: “We have to look at what people are going to prison for, and work to stop people going into the prison system who are non-violent, who are no harm to society. In many cases the only person they harm is themselves – petty drug offenses. (My) marijuana decriminalization bill – anybody who agrees or disagrees with legalization, the majority of people will say, “Yeah, nobody should be in jail for it.” It’s not worth the cost. They find out the price tag – we are spending way too much money to lock people up.”
Thank you Mandela Barnes for fighting the good fight! Cannabis law reform supporters have lost a strong voice in the Wisconsin Legislature
In another Milwaukee area primary race, Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) survived a primary challenge from Julie Meyer in Assembly District 20. Sinicki was a cosponsor of three cannabis bills in the 2015-2016 session including Barnes’ decrim bill.