State Rep. Melissa Sargent proposes marijuana legalization in Wisconsin

On the heels of laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington, Democratic State Rep. Melissa Sargent has begun seeking co-sponsors for legislation that would end criminal penalties for marijuana possession.

“This is a tide that’s turning in our country,” Sargent said.

“It’s not a question of whether this will happen, it’s when,” she said.

Sargent said she hasn’t spoken with any Republican lawmakers, who run both chambers of the Legislature, and has just started selling the idea to her Democratic colleagues.

The Madison lawmaker said she was motivated in part by the fact that Wisconsin has the fifth-highest racial disparity between blacks and whites when it comes to marijuana-related arrests. Decriminalizing marijuana, she said, would save time and money for law enforcement, and taxing it would raise revenues for the state.

Obviously Rep. Sargent’s legislation will be a non-starter for Republicans in the legislature, but it’s an idea I believe has some merit. As noted by a report from the ACLU, despite comparable usage rates, African-Americans in Wisconsin are nearly six times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession. What’s more, it costs our state nearly $80 million per year to enforce existing marijuana laws, while legalization of marijuana(and the ensuing taxation of marijuana) would actually put money into the state’s coffers.


Related Articles

17 thoughts on “State Rep. Melissa Sargent proposes marijuana legalization in Wisconsin

  1. Thanks Zach.

    Big props to Rep. Sargent. No surprise that the BigPharma funded GOP doesn’t see the “job-killing-government-regulations.” I hope her legislation contains ways to use the state and local tax revenue to protect the jobs, wages, and benefits of law enforcement.

    Though this piece from @ddayen in Politico was excellent.

    “Is there a pot bubble?”

    “When stocks in marijuana-related businesses soared as much as 1,700 percent one week after Colorado’s legalized shops opened, the exuberance reminded some observers of the heady days of the dot-com boom. And, indeed, industry insiders seem swept up in a sky’s-the-limit optimism that’s reminscient of the late 1990s, with ArcView Market Research—”the definitive source for cannabis industry analysis, trends, and statistics”—forecasting that legal marijuana could expand into a $10.2 billion market by 2018, with 64 percent growth expected just this calendar year, a rate higher than the global smartphone market.”

    At the same time, entirely new businesses have emerged, hawking insurance, advertising support, software, even pot vending machines. And with Colorado’s legal cannabis shops hitting $1 million in revenue on the first day of legal use, the stampede of capitalists into this new market should only accelerate. “There’s no desk of analysts at Goldman Sachs vetting this industry,” Kenndy says, “but there will be.”


    Colorado, meanwhile, has a strict inventory-tracking system to keep pot within state borders and away from black-market dealers—the Denver airport just banned pot from its site—and consumption must be done in private, creating dilemmas for would-be tourists and the hotels that serve them. All pot must be sold in child-resistant packaging with detailed labeling about potency and cultivation, and even the size of signs on storefronts is regulated to prevent aggressive marketing.

    In time, Privateer envisions large national firms that could process, package and distribute marijuana; a former Microsoft employee known as “the Bill Gates of bud” is making early investments along these lines for a retail chain catering to wealthy baby boomers. Some believe that as marijuana grows up, large-scale production techniques will drive down the price and make it hard for smaller retailers to compete.

    And despite all the barriers to entry, the banner sales in the Rocky Mountain State this month offer a window into the potential windfall for those who can overcome the hurdles. “Colorado just went from a small market of licensed medical users to the whole state and 60 million annual tourists,” Kennedy says. “This is the biggest opportunity I’ve ever seen.”

    I would never encourage anyone, who did not already have a serious illness, to use it, but the prohibition against alcohol didn’t work either.

  2. Not withstanding the proven medical benefits that have been suppressed by big pharma for their own huge self interest, the sheer stupidity of still outlawing the potential benefits of industrial hemp as a low maintenance, drought resistant agricultural commodity, many degrees less harmful to soil and water resources than the degradation involved with incessant limited mono-cropping of GMO industrial corn and soybeans with repeated applications of herbicides and pesticides, denies all common sense, except for corporate profits.

    And our commander-in-chief, despite his repeated happy-talk about marijuana, could act today to enable legalization of the substance, thereby creating jobs, infusing new business capital into our system, reversing the trend of criminal sanctions disproportionally inflicted on racial minorities for minor possession or use, clear tens of thousands of non-violent offenders from the costs to our society of supporting the prison industrial complex, but won’t.

    So with Barry Obuzzkill setting a clear example on so many issues for a presidential hopeful like Scott Walker to emulate now and in the future, while I admire the introduction of the legislation by Rep Sargent, Scotty and Barry will continue to ignore the electorate and be good house Negroes for the 1%.

    1. nq,

      Nice catch on hemp. Among all the other benefits you listed, afaik, it might be of some help to the Fox Valley and Wisconsin’s paper industry, which is in trouble.

  3. Zach I could not agree more with what Rep Melissa Sargent is doing on Marijuana Legalization. You are right on legalization being a non-starter with republicans, in fact the Assembly just past SB 150 on a voice vote that allows municipalities to move forward with prosecutions in marijuana cases even with the DA declines to prosecute.

    I was disappointed to see a lot of Democrats I agree with in a lot of other cases vote in favor of SB 150. In the Vietnam era a lot of Democrats said that the war funding is what lead to cuts in the Great Society. The fact is we do not have the money to fund a great education system in this state and a War on Marijuana.

  4. Wouldn’t it be better to address the disparities of sentencing rather than opening up the floodgates of legalization? Don’t hide a bunch of white liberals wanting to smoke pot behind a fake reason of wanting to lower incarceration rates of minorities. It is no accident that the legalization crowd is heavily white which the African Americans are focused on the actual problem.

    1. Stan, always nice to hear from the “nanny state.” I had no idea the “The 700 Club’s” Pat Robertson was a liberal. “Pat Robertson: Marijuana should be legal”

      Thanks for clearing that up.

      If you send a link to your comment to some of the big PR firms, that Big Pharma has on retainer, I bet they’ll be happy to send you a check.

    2. Stan,

      If you get a chance, check out the articles from Black Agenda Reports a couple of comments up thread. The pieces suggest, with actual survey figures, unreasonable racial loyalty to the POTUS seemingly trumping policy that actually hurts Blacks, which is similar, I suppose, to right-wing voters supporting Republicans despite being hurt by financial, employment and health policies enacted by the people they elect.

      Do you have a link to figures supporting the racial makeup of the “heavily white,” proponent claim you made? Is it any different than the racial makeup of the overall population in general? Would be really interested in seeing that info, thanks.

      1. It is no accident that the there are no black legislators pushing for this. It is almost exclusively with white liberals. What you do see, is black legislators pushing to change sentencing disparities and the legal effect that the broken justice system is having on the black community.

        1. Stan,

          nq asked you for a link.

          Is my computer broken? I see your response, but no link.

          Do these “white liberals,” include anyone with Jewish/semitic ancestors? Do you consider them “white?”

          What about the Irish? Margaret Thatcher really didn’t consider them to be “white,” did she? If I’m half Irish, am I 100% white? What about those of us with Polish and Russian ancestors? Do you consider us “white?” What about the Italians? If you consider Italians to be “white,” don’t you have to let Jessica Alba in to your “white” club? If Jessica Alba’s “in,” can you keep Halle Berry out or is she “black?” Is there a threshold for “white” ancestors in determining “whiteness?”

          “Meet Your Cousin, the First Lady: A Family Story, Long Hidden”

          If there’s a disagreement, if someone says they’re “white,” but someone else doesn’t agree, is there a court of “whiteness?”

          Since you’re such an expert on “blacks,” can you give us your top ten sources on “black” political news?

          1. LOL John,

            I can see how my inquiry for some facts might have appeared as a trick question to Stan, but back to the introduction of the bill and how to get it off the ground.

            Sure to “open the floodgates,” and push this forward would be to explain to the WI Tavern League how they might profit through extended licensing and companion sales, to make up for lower revenue due to the last decade of stricter enforcement of existing drunk driving laws. 😉

    3. Stan, if I’m not mistaken, Melissa Sargent comes from an interracial family. Also, legalizing marijuana would decrease the incarceration rate of people of all races.

  5. There are disabled people in constant pain who would benefit from even quasi-legal marijuana. Money saved from fewer prisoners would be a godsend to the schools. Let the cops do more important things, like learning people management skills.

  6. Legal..decriminalized would make wis profit in so many ways..taxes..less jailing..less tax money lost. Bring on the new businesses and jobs.thank you for caring.

  7. well if all dems and reps would see that vets and cancer patients could benifit from cannibis you all and i mean all would vote this in,but most of u right and left wing as usual leave ur brains in the past ask urself how many of my family and friends could benifit from these bills being passed think of what else this state could do with all the moneys and help!think about it really jails not only black or white or should i say just the people in jail wouldnt be there for growing there meds or use of cannibis .sure arrest the drunks really look at the duis some people have 5to8 in wi and still drive .but all in all think of thepharm drugs that u all sure like to take of course ur pain meds ,that the dr.s give out like candy the drop u off so then every one should i say addicts and thieves sell them and rob cause trouble . thats right keep them police busy .thank you

Comments are closed.