Changes for Milwaukee County

On Friday, Supervisor Sylvia Ortiz-Velez introduced a resolution to the county board that will lower fines for possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia to just $1 in Milwaukee County, down from the current fines of $250-$500.

Please find out who your County Supervisor is and call or email them, telling them you want them to vote in favor of this resolution.

Changes for Cities and Villages

Due to the nuances of law, the change in county ordinance will actually only lower the fines issued by Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Deputies. Most arrests in Milwaukee County are issued by local police.

In addition, due to another nuance of law, municipalities (cities and villages) are able to go further in reducing penalties than the county is. Specifically, while the county can only lower fines to $1, municipalities can remove all penalties!

This is de facto legalization!

Madison actually just did this in November. Their new ordinance explicitly says “A person who is eighteen (18) years of age or older may possess cannabis or cannabis derivatives in an amount not to exceed twenty-eight (28) grams on public property with the permission of the property owner, landlord or tenant or on private property.

Madison Ordinance Changes

The Madison ordinances were changed in three parts:

Sign Our Petition and Attend Our Meeting

To support our efforts to remove all penalties in Milwaukee County’s 19 municipalities, please look up who your local representative is on your municipality’s website and/or sign our petition below. We will be turning in petition signatures to the municipalities on a regular basis.

Some of these municipalities will be more resistant to change than others. We encourage you to not only sign our petition, but to also get more directly involved. We have our monthly meeting tonight (2/9/21) at 7pm. If you are unable to attend our meeting, please feel free to contact us at info@sewinorml.org to get plugged in.

RSVP for February meeting 2/9 @ 7pm
RSVP for March meeting 3/10 @ 7pm

We are more than happy to assist you in talking with your representatives and working with you to reduce or remove penalties in your community. Local officials prefer to hear from members of their community, so your assistance makes our advocacy much more powerful.

Below is the text of our petition and a form to sign. The phone number is optional, but encouraged if you would like us to keep you updated on how you can best help this initiative.

To: Municipal Leaders in Milwaukee County

In 2018, the people of Milwaukee County clearly stated their support for an end to marijuana prohibition: 70% of residents voted in support of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. In fact, a majority of the residents of every Milwaukee County municipality supported marijuana legalization:

Franklin – 52.46% 
Greendale – 55.27% 
Hales Corners – 57.98% 
Greenfield – 58.43% 
Oak Creek – 58.73% 
River Hills – 61.08% 
Brown Deer – 63.49% 
South Milwaukee – 64.51% 
Wauwatosa – 65.95% 
Fox Point – 66.07% 
Cudahy – 66.50% 
West Allis – 66.96% 
Whitefish Bay – 66.99% 
St. Francis – 67.83% 
Glendale – 68.14% 
Bayside – 69.32% 
West Milwaukee – 74.17% 
Milwaukee – 75.13% 
Shorewood – 79.18%

While outright legalization of marijuana can only be done at the state level, municipalities can – and should – do the next best thing: remove all penalties for possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia, as Madison did in November 2020.

Removing penalties for marijuana possession is not only good politics, it is good policy.

As our county struggles with the opiate crisis, recent research has suggested that legalizing marijuana leads to significant reductions in opiate abuse. See a 2020 study that analyzes the decline in opiate use in Colorado after marijuana legalization: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7246665/

This policy change would also dramatically reduce racial disparities in policing. In 2020 the ACLU put out a report that showed that in Wisconsin, Black people are 4.2 times more likely to get arrested for marijuana than white people, despite both groups using marijuana at similar rates: https://www.aclu-wi.org/en/news/new-aclu-report-black-people-four-times-more-likely-get-arrested-marijuana-possession-wisconsin

Removing penalties for marijuana possession is an easy way to improve racial justice in your community and allow for the use of a much safer alternative to the addicting and deadly opiate medications.

I hope you will look at the facts as well as the popular support that marijuana legalization has when deciding whether you want to allow the harms of marijuana prohibition to continue. I hope that in light of all of this, you will choose to be on the right side of history by making 2021 the year you remove all penalties for marijuana possession.