Former Wisconsin Attorney General Bronson La Follette, who was the first sitting Wisconsin Attorney General to endorse cannabis decriminalization, has died at age 82.
La Follette, the grandson of Senator Robert M. “Fighting Bob” La Follette, Sr., was first elected Wisconsin Attorney General in 1964, serving two two-year terms, then was elected again in 1974, serving three four-year terms. La Follette made his support for decriminalization part of his 1974 campaign.
In 1975, the State Controlled Substances Board held a series of eight statewide hearings on Wisconsin’s marijuana laws. Even before those hearings, La Follette, who sat on Board, had already publicly endorsed decriminalization.
In Nov. 1975, The Wisconsin State Journal reported La Follette joined seven members of the Governor’s Council on Drug Abuse voting in favor of urging lawmakers to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis. Only one member voted against. LaFollette said that with over 80% of all state drug arrests for pot, his office’s Criminal Investigation Division supports decriminalization; adding “There’s a tremendous social cost if we don’t decriminalize marijuana.”
Despite strong support from La Follette, then-Gov. Patrick Lucey and other state and local officials and the public for lightening state pot laws, Wisconsin lawmakers never did pass statewide decriminalization legislation, despite attempts through the 1970s and in recent years.