By Gretchen Schuldt
WJI just charted its 100th Milwaukee County case of felony second offense possession of marijuana.
And yes, the defendant in the 100th case was African-American. Not much of a surprise there, since 87 percent of the defendants in these cases were African-American.
Another non-surprise: the defendant in the 100th case was arrested in the City of Milwaukee, north of I-94, where 80 of the arrests occurred. (We've found just eight cases so far stemming from Milwaukee arrests south of I-94 and a total of 11 originating with arrests in the suburbs. One arrest took place on I-94.)
And, finally, yes, as in many, many other cases, the 100th arrest started as a traffic stop, this time for excessively tinted windows. Police said they smelled marijuana, and the rest is history recorded in court documents.
So is the racial / geographic concentration just a coincidence?
Absolutely not, judging from data dug up by the ACLU during litigation over the city's stop-and-frisk policy. The city and civil rights organization settled the federal class action lawsuit last month.
The ACLU found that between 2010 and 2017, Milwaukee police conducted more than 350,000 pedestrian and traffic stops for which they have no record of reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or a traffic or vehicle equipment violation, as required by the U.S. Constitution.
Former Police Chief Edward Flynn contributed to that number through his policy of encouraging traffic stops in certain neighborhoods as a crime-fighting measure.
The city has agreed to rescind the policy.
Flynn said in a 2009 memo said that "the intelligent, assertive use of police authority to stop people and vehicles can be an invaluable tool that reduces crime and enhances safety in these same neighborhoods. ..."
"Traffic enforcement will continue to be a key part of our policing strategy going forward," he said.
"It must be recognized that many of the people we stop will be released without further action. In this context, how our authority is employed is as important as a results of its use," he said.
By Gretchen Schuldt
The Dane County Board will consider whether to hold a Nov. 6 advisory referendum on legalizing marijuana.
The resolution already has support from a majority of the County Board. Twenty of the county's 37 supervisors are sponsors.
The resolution that would authorize the referendum is very similar to the one approved by the Milwaukee County Board last month.
The referendum question would differ somewhat from the Milwaukee County question, which also will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. The Dane County question would ask: "Should marijuana be legalized, taxed and regulated in the same manner as alcohol for adults 21 years of age or older?"
The Milwaukee County question will ask, "Do you favor allowing adults 21 years of age and older to engage in the personal use of marijuana, while also regulating commercial marijuana-related activities, and imposing a tax on the sale of marijuana?"
Sponsors of the measure are Yogesh Chawla, Jeff Pertl, Tanya Buckingham, Kelly Danner, Patrick Danner, Analiese Eicher, Chuck Erickson, Richard Kilmer, Jason Knoll, Dorothy Krause, Patrick Miles, Paul Nelson, Steven Peters, Michele Ritt, Bob Salov, Andrew Schauer, Sheilia Stubbs, Matt Veldran, Heidi Wegleitner, and Hayley Young.
The resolution was referred to the Executive Committee.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Seventy percent of the possession of marijuana cases filed in Milwaukee Municipal Court last year were against African Americans, records show.
Blacks account for just 40% of the city's population, but were defendants in 601 of the 860 marijuana possession cases.
In addition, 139 cases were filed against Hispanics, 30 more than the 109 cases filed against whites, according to Municipal Court statistics. Hispanics account for just 17 percent of the city's population; whites make up 45% of the city's residents.
The Municipal Court caseload reflect activities of the Police Department.
The Wisconsin Justice Initiative previously reported that African-Americans in Milwaukee County were far more likely to be charged with felony second offense possession of marijuana cases than are other races.
Simple possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana in the city can usually be charged as a municipal offense rather than as a state misdemeanor or felony. The municipal fine for possession is $50, though costs and fees will increase that to $124 for an adult and $94 for a juvenile. (Smoking marijuana in a public place is punishable by a fine of up to $250 plus fees and costs.)
Below is a map showing the Milwaukee or mostly Milwaukee zip codes where Municipal Court defendants charged with possession of marijuana resided and the number cases brought against those defendants.
Not all Municipal Court defendants live in Milwaukee and so not all cases are shown.
By Gretchen Schuldt
Legalizing marijuana could bring the state an additional $138 million per year in tax revenue beginning in 2021, according to the State Department of Revenue.
That may be low, though -- the department estimates that Wisconsinites would buy just 55% of the volume purchased in Colorado.
The department estimated the impact of legalizing marijuana as proposed in a bill introduced by State Rep Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) and State Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee). The bill would legalize the sale and use of pot for recreational and medical purposes.
“Even by conservative estimates, my bill to legalize marijuana will be an economic boon for Wisconsin," Sargent said Tuesday. "It's not just about legalizing marijuana; it’s about legalizing opportunity. This bill will create new jobs, support local economies, and present a return on investment per dollar that’s unparalleled in other industries. The numbers support legalization and given the budget crisis we’re facing, it’s time for us to give legalizing marijuana serious consideration.”
Somewhat less money would be generated in the bill's first years, according to the fiscal estimate. "Sales of marijuana would increase state excise and sales tax and fee revenues by $60.5 million in FY19, $109.5 million in FY20, and $138 million in FY21," the department reported.
The department assumed that Wisconsin marijuana consumption patterns would be similar to those in Colorado, where excise tax collections rose from $41.7 million in 2014 to $89 million in 2015, and $143.2 million in 2016.
Overall, though, Wisconsin pot users would buy just 55% of the amount of marijuana sold in Colorado, the department said. DOR didn't explain its reasoning, saying only that the estimate is "based on information from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau regarding marijuana usage rates and population differences."
Wisconsin's estimated population is actually a tad larger than Colorado's - 5.8 million here compared to 5.5 million in Colorado, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
New legalization costs in Wisconsin would be fairly minimal in comparison to revenue, according to the estimate - a one-time expenditure of $345,980 for setting up processes and systems for the new tax, another $156,360 annually in related administrative costs, and $1.2 million for 10 new excise tax agents, a supervisor and one criminal investigator.
Yup, still ugly.
The demographics sure say something about police practices. 85% of cases originated in the City of Milwaukee and 75% were made in Milwaukee in the area north of I-94.
Move along, people. Nothing to see here. Don't look any closer.
You can read more about each of these 40 cases - all of them filed in 2016 - on The Pot Page.
We've got white people!
Two of the 30 Milwaukee County felony marijuana possession cases posted thus far on The Pot Page involved white defendants!
Of course, 28 -- about 94% -- of the cases involved non-white defendants.
Milwaukee County, incidentally, is about 65% white.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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