Democrats push for pot decriminalization in Wisconsin

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Democratic lawmakers and others are pushing for decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana in Wisconsin.

But the measure they unveiled Wednesday is going nowhere in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Barnes and others say decriminalizing the possession of less than 28 grams of pot would decrease racial disparities and inequities in the criminal justice system, stating that, despite using marijuana at similar rates as white Wisconsin residents, African Americans are arrested for possession approximately four times as often.

“Wisconsin has among the worst racial disparities in the country,” Rep. Sheila Stubbs said in a statement. "The mass incarceration of African American men who have been disproportionately charged and imprisoned for low-level marijuana offenses is something that must be urgently addressed."

They also say it will decrease barriers to employment and higher education that those with felony convictions for possession face.

“Possession of small amounts of marijuana is no reason for anyone serve a prison sentence, lose out on a job, nor lose their voting rights," Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said.

But Republican legislative leaders are opposed to decriminalization. They killed a proposal Democratic Gov. Tony Evers made earlier this year.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he's long opposed decriminalization and doubts the latest bill will win support among Republicans.