New report reveals cannabis arrest hot spots in Wisconsin

Recent news coverage from Gannett Media Wisconsin has revealed the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) has sharply increased their numbers of marijuana arrests in the last few years. Other recent Gannett coverage looked at Wausau drug arrests tripling, Milwaukee County drug arrests dropping and errors in the stats for UW-Eau Claire pot arrests. The data comes from a new state report from the Wisconsin Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) database covering the years 2010-2014. The data also includes Wisconsin cannabis arrest statistics for all 72 counties as well as every law enforcement agency in Wisconsin. The report includes data on both cannabis possession and sales citations and arrests.

Here are the Top Ten Wisconsin counties for cannabis law enforcement in 2014, the most recent year available. Here is a chart I created showing top counties for cannabis possession cases:

Top Ten Wisconsin Counties for pot arrests in 2014.
Top Ten Wisconsin Counties for pot arrests in 2014.

Here is the numbers of arrests/citations for possession/sales for the Top Ten enforcement counties for 2014:

1) Milwaukee County 3103/452
2) Dane County 958/109
3) Racine County 798/93
4) Kenosha County 615/116
5) Brown County 598/77
6) Eau Claire County * 557/46
7) La Crosse County 484/36
8) Rock County 451/99
9) Outagamie County 438/37
10) Walworth County 407/15

Here are the Top 15 Wisconsin counties by population according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Top Ten pot enforcement counties are in bold text:

Rank County Population
1) Milwaukee County 957,735
2) Dane County 523,643
3) Waukesha County 396,488
4) Brown County 258,718
5 ) Racine County 195,080
6 ) Outagamie County 183,245
7) Winnebago County 169,546
8) Kenosha County 168,437
9) Rock County 161,448
10) Marathon County 135,868
11 ) Washington County 133,674
12 ) La Crosse County 118,212
13 ) Sheboygan County 115,569
14 ) Walworth County 102,804
15 ) Eau Claire County 102,105

There is a lot of data here to crunch but I did take a look at the Top 5 2014 counties figures for 2010. The chart below shows significant decreases in possession cases from the 2010 numbers to 2014 for Milwaukee and Dane counties. Milwaukee possession arrests/citations were nearly 1700 less in 2014 from 2010. Racine County, on the other hand, had  nearly 180 more possession cases than in 2010.

Chart comparing 2010 arrest/citation stats with 2014 numbers.
Chart comparing 2010 arrest/citation stats with 2014 numbers.

While some counties are no doubt much more focused on pot enforcement than others, another variable comes into play as well. Brown County is home to the Green Bay Packers, which swells the population on game days, creating more opportunities for enforcement. Similarly, counties with University of Wisconsin campuses see higher enforcement. Milwaukee and Dane counties are the two largest and the most urban, providing more opportunities to come across it while policing. Walworth County is home the Alpine Valley concert venue, where many concertgoers from all parts of the country have felt the sting of cannabis prohibition in Wisconsin.

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee) that would have decriminalized cannabis statewide if passed was among 11 pieces of Democratic-sponsored cannabis law reform legislation that failed to progress out of committee in the 2015-2016. Two GOP-sponsored CBD bills (Senate/Assembly versions of same bill) received hearings and an Assembly floor vote, but failed to pass when the state Senate abruptly adjourned to block passage.

Local decriminalization attempts are ongoing in Dane County where the county and Fitchburg reduced penalties to $1 plus costs in 2015. In the city of Monona, a local campaign sponsored by Madison NORML is preparing to launch a campaign to gather signatures for binding direct legislation to make cannabis the lowest priority. The group hopes to begin collecting signatures in mid-May to place the binding referendum on the Nov. 2016 ballot in Monona. Cannabadger has been following this story closely and will be posting updates as more information becomes available. Here is the Facebook page for the Monona “Binding Direct Legislation” campaign.

Read more: Wisconsin Cannabis Arrest Hot Spots Part Two

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