Now state Rep. Melissa Sargent wants to legalize marijuana for recreational and medicinal use.
Sargent introduced a bill yesterday that would allow Wisconsin residents to possess up to a half ounce of pot. Non-residents would be allowed a quarter ounce, and everything would be taxed at 25 percent.
Sargent makes the legalization argument based on economics and racial equity. In an op-ed published in the Capital Times, she claims each marijuana stop by officers costs taxpayers $425, on average.
"It is a travesty that we are putting millions of taxpayer dollars into victimless crimes when we should be doing the exact opposite: creating revenue and letting our police officers focus on keeping peace in our neighborhoods," she writes.
Black people are 12 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession in Madison, according to Sargent. In Minnesota blacks are 6.4 times more likely -- still a staggering disparity that needs to be addressed.
More than 4,000 bills have been introduced in the Minnesota legislature this session, and not one of them addresses marijuana legalization. After last year's marathon battle just to get some of the nation's strictest medicinal marijuana laws passed, that's not too surprising.
Medicinal marijuana becomes legal in Minnesota on July 1, and lawmakers are likely waiting to see how it goes before trying to extend the legalization effort.
Under Sargent's Wisconsin proposal no edibles or smoking in public would be allowed.
The legalization effort didn't go anywhere last year when Sargent introduced the same bill and it probably won't go anywhere this year in Wisconsin's Republican-controlled legislature. Sargent writes she keeps introducing the measure because public opinion indicates the tide is turning.
"Good public policy often forms like a wave," she writes. "It gathers momentum, at first with a ripple, then builds as congregating forces create something stronger. The policy finally crests when a critical mass is reached, and the politicians finally back the policy the public has been touting over time."
"Marijuana legalization is nearing this moment in the United States."
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