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The governor of Wisconsin announced Tuesday that he has granted 30 pardons, mostly to those convicted of non-violent marijuana or other drug-related offenses.
This brings the total number of pardons issued so far by Governor Tony Evers (D) to 337 in his first three years in office, the most granted by a governor in state history at this point in time. ‘a first term. Advocates have urged state and federal executives to exercise this kind of authority, especially over cannabis cases, as more jurisdictions embrace legalization.
“I am proud of our work to give a second chance to people who have made amends and paid their debt to society,” Evers said in a press release. “These people have recognized and acknowledged their past mistakes, and it sends a powerful message of redemption as each of them strives to build a better and better future for themselves and their communities.”
Of the 30 cases pardoned Tuesday, 21 of them were related to the sale or possession of a controlled substance.
“Matthew Callaway was in his late teens when he sold marijuana to an officer 16 years ago,” reads the description of one case. “He resides in Colorado, where he aspires to be a firefighter. “
“Leon Howard was 19 when officers found marijuana in his home,” said another. “Living in Milwaukee, he supported his neighborhood by hosting block parties and street cleanups in addition to two jobs. “
Receiving a pardon does not mean that a person’s record is erased under Wisconsin law. Rather, it is an official act of forgiveness that restores rights such as being able to serve on a jury, hold public office or receive certain professional licenses. People can apply for clemency, and they are eligible for pardon if it has been at least five years since they served their sentence, with no other criminal charges pending.
Drug laws are particularly punitive in Wisconsin, where efforts to legalize marijuana, for example, have consistently stopped before the legislature despite the governor’s pushing for reform.
That said, there are lawmakers working to enact policy changes. Last month, two bipartisan lawmakers introduced a bill to decriminalize possession of low-strength marijuana. In August, three senators separately tabled legislation to legalize cannabis for adult use in the state.
As it stands, possession of marijuana is punishable by a fine of up to $ 1,000 and up to six months in jail for a first offense. Those convicted of a subsequent offense would face a felony charge punishable by a fine of up to $ 10,000 and up to three and a half years in prison.
Evers attempted to legalize recreational and medical marijuana as part of its state budget proposal earlier this year, but a GOP-led legislative committee removed the language of cannabis from the legislation in May. Democrats attempted to add the provisions through an amendment the following month, but Republicans blocked the decision.
Other Republican lawmakers have tabled bills to more modestly decriminalize marijuana possession in the state, but none of those proposals were brought forward in this year’s session.
Evers held a virtual town hall in April where he discussed his cannabis proposal, noting polls show Wisconsin residents support the policy change.
Locally, Wisconsin voters in three jurisdictions approved non-binding advisory questions in favor of legalizing marijuana last year. The measures came after Wisconsinites overwhelmingly embraced cannabis reform by supporting more than a dozen similar measures across the state in the 2018 election.
Late last year, city officials in the state capital Madison voted to remove most local penalties for possession and use of cannabis, allowing adult use of cannabis. 18 years and over.
But as lawmakers scramble to push forward a number of reform proposals in Badger State, people still face the consequences of criminalization in the interim – and this is where the graces of l executive can step in and help.
Evers may have set a pardons record in Wisconsin, but he’s not the only governor of the United States taking proactive steps to provide relief.
In May, the governor of Pennsylvania pardoned a doctor who was arrested, prosecuted and jailed for cultivating marijuana which he used to relieve his dying wife. This came months after he granted expedited pardons for minor cannabis offenses to 69 people.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) recently said one of his main goals during his final year in office was to ensure that as many eligible people as possible submit applications for the courts are shutting down their cannabis records and re-establishing opportunities for things like housing, student financial aid, and employment.
After signing a bill to double the marijuana possession limit for adults in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis (R) then asked state law enforcement to identify people who have already been sentenced for the new term he might be able to pardon.
Last year, the governor of Illinois announced more than 500,000 write-offs and pardons for those with minor marijuana-related offenses on their records. The massive leniency and record erasure sweep came about a year after the state’s legal cannabis market launched.
In June, more than 15,000 people convicted of low-level marijuana possession in Nevada were automatically pardoned under a resolution by the governor and Pardon Council commissioners.
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee (D) has also granted pardons for cannabis offenses.
At the federal level, President Joe Biden has come under pressure from numerous lawyers and lawmakers to use his executive power to provide assistance to those convicted of marijuana in their cases.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week that the president had “every intention of using his clemency power,” but she declined to give details on when any action presidential election could actually take place.
“Biden must now rely on his executive authority. He’s delayed and underused it so far, ”Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said last week, adding that he could use his authority to advance a number of progressive causes like marijuana reform.
The congresswoman was among the first to suggest that Biden use executive power to advance marijuana reform, joining 36 of her colleagues in a letter to the president in February imploring him to grant mass pardons to federally convicted of cannabis. Biden recently received a follow-up letter demanding a status update.
Last week, two Republican lawmakers sent Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris a separate letter criticizing their “lack of action” and “continued silence” on marijuana reform and urging the administration to reschedule the cannabis under federal law. They first applied in July.
These are just the latest examples of lawmakers submitting a demand for reform directly to the president, who has disappointed advocates in his first year in office by refusing to take meaningful steps to change the country’s approach to the government. cannabis despite a campaign for decriminalization and pro-rescheduling platforms.
Since the election, neither the president nor the vice president – who sponsored a legalization bill while in the Senate – have spoken of their cannabis campaign promises. And so far, the only pardons to come under the Biden administration have benefited turkeys at a Thanksgiving ceremony.
This is despite repeated calls from lawmakers and lawyers.
Last month, a group of senators separately sent a letter urging Biden to use his executive authority to grant a mass pardon to those convicted of non-violent marijuana.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who led the letter, said in a recent interview that Biden could boost the economy and promote racial fairness with a “stroke of the pen” in granting relief.
A recently released Congressional Research Service (CRS) report claimed the president had the power to grant mass pardons for cannabis-related offenses. He also said the administration can move to federal cannabis legalization without waiting for lawmakers to act.
Meanwhile, a group of more than 150 celebrities, athletes, politicians, law enforcement professionals and academics signed a letter that was delivered to Biden in September, urging him to grant a “full, complete and unconditional pardon.” to all people with non-violence. federal marijuana convictions.
Warren and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) separately sent a letter to the Attorney General in October, arguing that the Justice Department should initiate a process to deprogram marijuana in order to “allow states to regulate cannabis like they see fit, begin to address the damage done by decades of racial disparities in cannabis law enforcement and facilitate valuable medical research.
The White House said in August that the president plans to use his executive authority to grant leniency to people with certain non-violent drug convictions.
In April, Psaki insisted on Biden’s pledge of leniency for people with federal marijuana and said the process would begin with a modest rescheduling of cannabis – a proposal that advocates say would not actually accomplish what she suggests.
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