Democrats unveil bill to decriminalize 'small amounts of marijuana,' 28 grams or less

MADISON -- Wisconsin Democrats have once again unveiled legislation to decriminalize marijuana. The bill has little chance of passing the Republican-controlled Legislature. But the bill's authors say it is worth fighting for.

For the second time in less than a year, Wisconsin Democrats are pushing to decriminalize what they call "small amounts of marijuana."

"With limited law enforcement resources, it just makes sense to focus on serious crimes that will make our communities safer," said State Rep. Shelia Stubbs (D-Milwaukee).

The latest proposal would legalize the use and distribution of 28 grams or less. The bill would expunge the record of anyone already convicted of using or selling that amount. It would also prohibit law enforcement from using an odor of marijuana as a probable cause to investigate a crime.

"Do what's right. Act in the interest of the people of Wisconsin. Act in justice and in fairness," said Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes.

Supporters say passing the bill will reduce mass incarceration -- and address what they describe as shameful racial disparities.

"African Americans make up six percent of the population here in the state of Wisconsin. Yet we make up almost 40 percent of the prison population. This is not just," said State Rep. David Crowley (D-Milwaukee).

26 other states already have similar laws. Wisconsin Republicans have not been willing to follow suit. They stripped a similar proposal from Democratic Governor Tony Evers' budget earlier this year.

Staff for both Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senator Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told FOX6 News they are against the bill.

Democrats say the Republican leaders are ignoring the will of the people.

"I think it's extremely important we not just talk to Speaker Vos, but to every representative on the Republican side," Crowley said.

This bill is still circulating for co-sponsors. Since Republican leaders are opposed to decriminalizing marijuana, Democrats would need some Republican support to get the bill to the floor for a vote.