Wisconsin Lawmakers Seek to Reduce Fines and Jail Time for Cannabis Possession

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A recently proposed bipartisan bill would affect criminal charges surrounding cannabis possession in the Badger State.

In December 2023, lawmakers in Wisconsin introduced a bill that would decriminalize small amounts of cannabis (1). The proposed bill, Assembly Bill 861, was originally announced in a memo in early December and later introduced on December 22nd (1). It would decriminalize possession of up to half an ounce of cannabis and discontinue jail time as a punishment (1).

The bill was introduced by Representatives Shae Sortwell, Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, and Dave Considine, and co-sponsored by Senator Lena Taylor (1,2). Under current law, those convicted of cannabis possession can be fined up to $1000 and be sentenced to six months in jail, while repeat offenders can be charged with a felony (2).


“It is time for Wisconsin to join the national discussion,” stated the bill’s authors, explaining that other US states such as North Dakota, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Nebraska have already eliminated jail time for individuals convicted of possessing small amounts of cannabis (2).

The new bill would also give police more leeway when deciding whether to arrest a suspect, a change which is intended to redirect resources to more significant crimes (1). Local jurisdictions are currently able to pass their own ordinances and additional fines for cannabis possession, and under the new bill, those fines would be between $100 and $250 (1). Judges would have the option of sentencing community service instead of fines (1).

The bill would reportedly most likely be signed by Wisconsin governor Tony Evers, but is not expected to pass the Legislature (2). The authors of Assembly Bill 861 had previously introduced a similar in 2021, but it did not receive a hearing (2).

A bill to legalize medical cannabis is expected to be introduced this month (3).


  1. Herrington, A. J. Wisconsin lawmakers introduce marijuana decriminalization bill (accessed Jan 2, 2024).
  2. Shur, A. Small amounts of marijuana decriminalized under bipartisan Wisconsin bill (accessed Jan 2, 2024).
  3. Bauer, S. A Republican proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Wisconsin is coming soon (accessed Jan 3, 2024).