This is proving to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. We have finally crossed the half-way point. The states featured going forward generally have mixed laws when it comes to cannabis. Some good, some bad, and some ugly. Today we turn to number 25: Wisconsin. Smack-dab in the middle.
Our previous rankings are as follows: 26. Arizona; 27. West Virginia; 28. Indiana; 29. North Carolina; 30. Utah; 31. South Carolina; 32. Tennessee; 33. North Dakota; 34.Georgia; 35. Louisiana; 36. Mississippi; 37. Nebraska; 38. Missouri; 39. Florida; 40. Arkansas; 41. Montana; 42. Iowa; 43. Virginia; 44. Wyoming; 45. Texas; 46. Kansas; 47. Alabama; 48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma; 50. South Dakota.
Criminal penalties. A person’s first marijuana possession offense earns a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a maximum $1,000 fine. A subsequent offense is classified as a felony punishable by up to three-and-a-half years imprisonment and a maximum $10,000 fine.
The sale or cultivation of marijuana is punished as follows:
- Under 200 grams or less than 4 plants earn a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to 3.5 years imprisonment.
- Between 200 and 1,000 grams or 5-12 plants earns a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to 6 years imprisonment.
- Between 1,000 and 2,500 grams or 21-50 plants earns a maximum fine of $25,000 and up to 10 years imprisonment.
- Between 2,500 and 10,000 grams or 51-200 plants earns a maximum fine of $25,000 fine and up to 12.5 years imprisonment.
- Over 10,000 grams or more than 200 plants earns a maximum fine of $25,000 and up to 15 years imprisonment.
Medical Marijuana. In 2014 Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed into law a bill allowing patients to access CBD oil. The law allows a medical practitioner to dispense CBD to treat a seizure disorder. The law is limited and many potential Wisconsin medical marijuana patients are unable to access CBD because of the limited number of qualifying conditions. Attempts to expand Wisconsin’s program have been unsuccessful in the state’s legislature.
Industrial Hemp. Wisconsin does not currently have a legal hemp program in place, but the state has quite a history with marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin. Grow, a magazine published by University of Wisconsin-Madison, provides a synopsis of the history of hemp in Wisconsin:
Farmers were growing hemp in Wisconsin before it was admitted as a state, but true hemp glory came during World War II, with high demand from the military for such hemp-based products as rope and twine (eventually some 146,000 acres of hemp were harvested nationwide). . . . An article in the Capital Times in 1941 noted that Wisconsin produced more than 75 percent of the hemp raised commercially in the United States, and Wisconsin was referenced several times in the 1942 government-produced film “Hemp for Victory.” At one point Waupun-based grower and mill owner Matt Rens was known as “America’s Hemp King.” But after the war the crop lost much of its value, especially with the rise of synthetic fiber, and in 1970 federal drug law classified plants with any THC as an illegal substance.
Perhaps Wisconsin will someday return to its former glory as a major hemp producer.
Menominee Marijuana. In August 2015 the Menominee Indian Reservation voted to legalize medical and recreational marijuana. The Menominee is a sovereign reservation, meaning it is not bound by Wisconsin’s laws on marijuana. The vote was advisory, meaning the Reservation’s legislature needs to act to allow legal marijuana consumption. The Menominee have allowed the cultivation of hemp. In 2014 the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) raided Menominee tribal land and burned down the Tribe’s hemp crop. The Menominee sued the DEA for those actions and recently that lawsuit went up in smoke when a Federal judge granted the DEA’s motion to dismiss.
Bottomline. Wisconsin’s criminal laws are mediocre at best and the state’s medical marijuana program is far from ideal. But the state has a huge potential for future hemp cultivation and it is also the geographic home to the Menominee Indian Reservation, which is proving to be progressive and aggressive when it comes to cannabis/hemp. But until there is change, Wisconsin will sit right in the middle of our fifty state ranking.