marijuana

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Some members of the Milwaukee County Board want to reduce the fine for 25 grams or less of marijuana down to $1. Currently, the fine for that amount ranges from $250 to $500.

Supervisor Sylvia Ortiz-Velez unveiled the proposal at a news conference Tuesday. She cited a recent study that shows disproportionate numbers of people of color are arrested on marijuana charges. 

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People will soon be allowed to smoke marijuana in Illinois. The law was passed in May and will take effect in January 2020. That could spark a whole new type of "weed tourism," where Wisconsinites travel south to use the drug.

So, what do people traveling through this state need to know about possessing marijuana or even driving after ingesting it?

Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Watch

After four decades of using strong prescription drugs to treat Crohn’s disease, a chronic digestive disorder, Patty developed an aggressive form of skin cancer.

“It’s because my body has been suppressed for so long, it can’t fight it [cancer],” the Wisconsin resident said.

Patty, who has worked at her father’s restaurant for 27 years, now struggles to handle full-time duties.

“I’m trying to get disability, but I’ve been denied once already. I don’t plan on quitting working. I just need help. I need help because I can’t do a full-time job,” Patty said.

Recreational pot is about to become legal in Illinois, but Chicago's Housing Authority says not in our backyard or front yard or anywhere on public housing premises, for that matter.

Housing voucher recipients received a letter from the agency last week, warning them about the ramifications of smoking or possessing pot on federally funded grounds even after it becomes legal on Jan. 1. In a nutshell, those who violate the federal law could face eviction.

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There have been lots of arguments made both for and against medical marijuana. But there are flaws in claims made on both sides. That's what researchers at the Wisconsin Policy Forum found with their latest report.

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Black people in Wisconsin make up almost 7% of the state population yet are roughly 40% of Wisconsin's prison inmates. Lawmakers and community organizers at a press conference Wednesday presented a bill that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. The goal: to reduce the number of people of color in jail.

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An increasing number of Midwestern states are legalizing marijuana in some form or another. Will Wisconsin do the same? State lawmakers have mixed opinions on the issue.

Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, has been a member of the state Assembly for six years — and that's about how long she's been working on a bill that would fully legalize marijuana in Wisconsin. While she's authored legislation three times, it's never gone anywhere in the Republican-controlled Legislature. But with neighboring states approving recreational cannabis, she feels like it's time to try again.

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There's a lot of money being made across the country from the legalization of marijuana.

While weed is still illegal at the federal level, nearly 20 states allow the use of medical marijuana. The District of Columbia and 11 states have legalized the recreational use — Illinois is one. The new law goes into effect in January. It's expected to eventually bring in anywhere between $500 million and $700 million a year. 

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Nearly nine out of 10 cases where vaping led to people developing a severe lung disease in Wisconsin involved the use of THC products, such as waxes or oils, Wisconsin's Department of Health Services said Thursday.

Health officials said that 89% of the 27 people they interviewed who became sick reported using e-cigarettes or other vaping devices to inhale THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.

At a time when more than 30 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana for either medical or recreational use, the U.S. surgeon general says no amount of the drug is safe for teens, young adults and pregnant women.

Researchers hoping to study marijuana for scientific and medical purposes are one step closer to expanding their limited supply of the plant.

This week, the federal government announced it would begin processing dozens of pending applications for permission to cultivate the plant for scientific research.

Advice To Immigrants: ‘Do Not Mess With Marijuana' Even Where It Is Legal

Aug 4, 2019
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In late December 2017, Lisa Kum received a call from her husband, Sothy.

Sothy told Lisa to pick him up in Chicago because he was about to be released after three months of detention by immigration authorities on a marijuana-related charge. On the drive from Wisconsin with their daughter Emma, she received another call: Sothy said there was a mistake, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement was not going to release him.

Blacks Arrested For Pot Possession At Four Times The Rate Of Whites In Wisconsin

Jul 14, 2019
Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Watch

During Wisconsin’s 2018 midterm election, which saw a record-breaking turnout, it was not the close gubernatorial race that motivated Milwaukee resident Marlon Rockett to cast an early ballot. It was the county’s non-binding referendum on whether recreational use of marijuana should be legalized.

Illinois has become the 11th state in the country to legalize the recreational use and purchase of marijuana.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who was elected last year, signed the bill into law on Tuesday, fulfilling a key campaign promise. The state joins 10 others and the District of Columbia in allowing recreational use. The legislation takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

In Wisconsin, Users Of Cannabis And CBD Are As Close As Main Street

Jun 24, 2019
Emily Hamer / Wisconsin Watch

In a tiny room inside a hair salon in Viroqua, Wis., two women gaze over a glass case. They have driven 30-some miles down the Mississippi River from La Crosse just to check out Kickapoo Kind, a shop established last summer in the heart of the state’s politically liberal Driftless region.

On a Saturday morning, customers flow in and out of the shop, where a neon CBD sign glows in the window and a fan spreads the smell of cannabis as soon as you walk in the door.

'Haze' Abounds As Michigan Struggles To Regulate Recreational Cannabis

Jun 17, 2019
Viktor Tollemar / Wisconsin Watch

Matthew Abel’s law firm bank account was shut down twice. He had to temporarily change the name of his Detroit firm from Cannabis Counsel to the generic Rivertown, PLC.

John Sinclair, a “radical poet” and national symbol of marijuana injustice, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1969 after passing two joints to an undercover narcotics officer.

Lawmaker's 'Lonely Ship' Filling Up As Support For Legalizing Cannabis Grows

May 28, 2019
Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Elected as state representative for the 48th Assembly District, Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, has been “legislating through listening” to her 60,000 constituents since 2012. The stories and concerns she heard from voters in her district have launched Sargent on an unexpected journey, sending her on a mission that she never ant­icipated when she first ran for office.

Sargent, who says she has never used marijuana, has concluded that prohibition of the drug is ruining the lives of a large number of Wisconsin residents.

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Wisconsin’s laws regulating marijuana possession have been a patchwork of municipal ordinances for years. Now, Gov. Tony Evers is hoping to change that.

In his first budget proposal, Evers proposed a state-wide policy decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing its use for medicinal purposes. Still, while Evers presents a clear path forward, there remains a lot of confusion over what his proposal would mean for Wisconsinites. 

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Updated at 4:32 p.m.  

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday that his budget will include legalizing medical marijuana, along with decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Evers says possession, manufacturing or distribution of marijuana in amounts of 25 grams or less should be decriminalized.  

LaToya Dennis

On Nov. 6, voters across Wisconsin will head to the polls to vote on whether marijuana should be legalized in 16 Wisconsin counties and two cities. Questions concerning marijuana will range from should it be legalized for medical purposes to recreational use.

LaToya Dennis

Have you ever heard the saying “everything old is new again?” When it comes to the hemp industry in Wisconsin, that old saying is holding true.

Just ask former Milwaukee Alderman Mike McGee Junior and his business partner Maya Mays. They opened their first kiosk selling hemp-based products at Mayfair Mall back in July. Since then, they kiosk has turned into a store and they’ve added three others: 414 Hemp, 262 Hemp, 920 Hemp and 608 Hemp.

Maayan Silver

When Milwaukee County voters go to the polls this fall, they might see a question about pot. A proposed referendum would gauge how voters stand on the topics of marijuana legalization, taxation, and regulation.

The Milwaukee County Board's Judiciary, Safety and General Services Committee approved adding the following advisory referendum to the November ballot on Thursday:

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An analysis of felony second offense marijuana possession in Milwaukee County has found a troubling pattern. Of the 95 stops where no other crime was being committed, 86 percent of the people arrested were African-American.

The number is startling in a county where African-Americans makeup only 25 percent of the population, and the circumstances of some of the arrests seemed questionable.

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Some Democratic lawmakers are renewing a push to legalize medical marijuana. They say the move could keep people from using -- and perhaps becoming hooked on -- opioid painkillers. The fate of the proposal is uncertain, though, as long as Republicans control the Legislature.

Democratic state lawmakers trying to gain support to legalize medical marijuana held hearings in five cities this fall. Senator Jon Erpenbach and Representative Chris Taylor wanted to give the public a chance to share their thoughts about the proposal.

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Marijuana is a hot topic again in the Wisconsin Legislature. A couple Republican state Senators said Thursday they’ll introduce a bill to legalize possession of CBD oil, a marijuana extract used to treat seizures. At the same time, some Democrats want to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. Only one proposal seems likely to move forward.

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As the fine for possessing small amounts of marijuana has dropped in Milwaukee, so to has the number of citations for it.

Over the past few months, the Public Policy Forum has been examining how the city's marijuana laws are enforced, in an effort to understand what they are accomplishing.

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Update: Members of the Menominee Nation of northern Wisconsin have voted yes to allowing both recreational and medicinal use of marijuana on their reservation near Shawano.

Tribal leaders announced results of the vote on Friday. The referendums are advisory only, but leaders had indicated they would move forward with drafting an ordinance to allow growing and selling marijuana on tribal land.

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Tuesday's 10-3 vote would reduce the maximum fine from $500 to $50 for possessing 25 grams of marijuana or less in the City of Milwaukee.

Supporters of the reduction, including members of the African American Roundtable, say it will help address a racial injustice because blacks in Milwaukee are five times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite similar usage rates.

Report Explores Marijuana Policy in Milwaukee

May 29, 2015
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Members of a Milwaukee Common Council committee took up a proposal Thursday that could reduce the penalties for first-time offenses for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Advocates say reforms are needed to address disparities in how marijuana laws are enforced and their impact on offenders.

"When you look at the percentage of the population that is African-American versus the percentage of offenders who are actually being picked up by police in Milwaukee and prosecuted, there is a disparity there," says Public Policy Forum president Rob Henken.

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It appeared on Tuesday that Milwaukee’s Common Council would reduce the fine for marijuana possession.

Currently, the fine for possessing up to 25 grams is from $250 to $500. Ald. Nik Kovac wants to lower the penalty to from $0 to $50.

Kovac says the fine is unfair to black residents.

“Out of about 1,500 tickets last year, 1,250 were issued to African Americans, in a city that has approximately the same number of African Americans as whites,” Kovac says.

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