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    Calls for meaningful change follow Biden's move to relax marijuana restrictions

    By Andrea Albers,

    28 days ago

    Milwaukee's mayor, Cavalier Johnson, is celebrating the announcement of President Biden, re-classifying marijuana as a "schedule three" drug under federal law, which significantly lessens the penalties. "Reclassifying marijuana is a historic shift in federal policy, all made possible, all made possible by President Joe Biden and his bold leadership," said Mayor Johnson during a press conference outside City Hall.

    But what does declassifying mean for the push for legalization here in Wisconsin?

    The bottom line is — marijuana remains illegal in Wisconsin. Federal reclassification does not change that. What a less restrictive classification can do is open the door for new research, which could inform lawmakers as they consider change.

    Canni, a CBD and THC dispensary in Walker's Point, opened six years ago. By now Colin Plant, the founder, imagined marijuana, be it medical or recreational, would be legal in Wisconsin. "I mean, it was part of the reason why we started this so that we could evolve, you know, in legalization," he explained. "But, it just hasn't progressed." TMJ4 News
    Colin Plant, Canni Infusion bar and cafe.

    The state's latest effort to legalize marijuana hit a roadblock earlier this year. "Five state-run dispensaries in that last proposed bill? You can keep that," said Plant. "We don't we don't want that here. And I think that's why the bill didn't go anywhere."

    For Plant, codifying cannabis comes with concerns about competition and equity. "There has to be social justice reform, right? You can't have people creating businesses and people still sitting in jail for those crimes when you're selling the same thing."

    The ACLU of Wisconsin says what often gets overlooked in calls for legalization is the need to grant clemency. "Disproportionately people who are poor, or people of color, are thrown into the criminal legal system simply for possessing marijuana," said Amanda Merkwae, Advocacy Director for the ACLU. "There was an ACLU report that was released in 2020 that found that black people are 4.2 times more likely than white people to be arrested for simple marijuana possession statewide."

    A first offense is a misdemeanor and could come with 6 months in prison and a $1,000 fine. A second offense is a felony.

    With legalization, the ACLU would also want some sort of leniency for those already convicted of marijuana-related offenses. "Having any kind of criminal history can really be life-altering," continued Merkwae. "It can impact someone's holding their job, or housing, or destabilize the lives of their family or (the people) who depend on them if there's any period of incarceration. Are all of these collateral consequences worth it when we have a lot of states that have already gone down the road of legalization?"

    Wisconsin remains one of a dozen states where medical or recreational use is illegal but there's been a sizable shift in public attitude over the past decade. In a 2013 Marquette Law School poll, 45% of people opposed full legalization. In January of this year, it dropped to 29%.

    The Drug Enforcement Administration puts drugs into 'schedules' based on how likely it is for someone to abuse them.

    Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. The DEA says schedule one drugs have no currently accepted medical use.

    Schedule 2 drugs have a "high" potential for abuse, and include cocaine, methamphetamine, and opioids.

    Schedule three, which now includes marijuana, are drugs with a "low-to-moderate" potential for abuse. Those include some non-narcotic painkillers and anabolic steroids.

    Schedule four includes anti-depressants, and schedule five includes cough medicine.

    Talk to us: Hey there! At TMJ4 News, we're all about listening to our audience and tackling the stuff that really matters to you. Got a story idea, tip, or just want to chat about this piece? Hit us up using the form below. For more ways to get in touch, head over to Name Email Message Verification:

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