By Gretchen Schuldt
We're halfway through our examination of cannabis cases filed in circuit courts last year, and thus far it looks like law enforcement in the northeastern part of the state is more aggressive in pursuing criminal marijuana charges than is law enforcement in southern Wisconsin.
The map and chart below show one measure of prosecutorial interest in pursuing cannabis charges – the number of county residents per criminal case that includes one or more marijuana charge. It's not a perfect measure, but it does paint a general picture of where folks are more likely to face criminal prosecution for pot.
The numbers are good evidence that cannabis laws are not consistently applied across the state. Some municipalities, such as Milwaukee, pursue most simple possession cases in municipal courts and not in state circuit courts. Other places just don't take cannabis enforcement as seriously as others do.
Still, it seems problematic that people in Florence County, where there are just 139 residents for every cannabis case filed, are statistically so much more likely to face criminal charges than someone in Dane County, where there are 4,339 people for every cannabis case.
The idea that everyone is equal before the law apparently does not apply across county lines.
There is more information and detail about what's going on in the 36 counties examined thus far on our 2019 Pot Page. We continue to add to it.
This project is a partnership between the Wisconsin Justice Initiative and the American Constitution Society Milwaukee Lawyer Chapter.
Help WJI advocate for justice in Wisconsin