WI State Public Defenders Office requests decriminalization

It is 2023-25 Budget time and agencies are again putting together proposals for the Governor to help craft a budget for the State of Wisconsin. Throughout past budgets cycles under Republican Governor Scott Walker, many key agencies have requested changes in the cannabis laws in Wisconsin.

I reported on one key agency a few times back in 2013. The coverage produced articles entitled Wisconsin Public Defender’s Office Seeks Changes In Drug Laws and Budget Cuts Could Force Wisconsin To Decriminalize 25 Grams Or Less. The 2013 proposal by the Wisconsin State Public Defenders Office spurred and editorial in The Badger Herald entitled Ineffective Marijuana Laws Cost Wisconsin Money, Time.

In 2016 the subject caught the attention of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative and they published a blog article entitled Decriminalize pot possession: State Public Defender’s office (SPD). The report said in fiscal year 2016, which ended June 30, “the SPD represented clients in almost 8,442 related to possession of drugs,” the SPD said. “If these cases would not have qualified for representation due to the suggested reclassification to ordinances, then the SPD would have saved $455,312.”

What now

Wisconsin Public Defenders Office

In any case, the latest proposal for 2023 from the SPD caught the attention of the national cannabis publication Marijuana Majority.  

SPD, meanwhile, said in its budget request that, in the interest of reducing the agency’s staffing costs, the governor’s executive budget should propose decriminalize cannabis possession.

It says that cannabis possession should be “reclassified as an ordinance violation for first- and second-time offenders and a misdemeanor for third-time offenders, provided that there are no allegations that the individual is manufacturing, distributing, or delivering a controlled substance.”

The office estimates that “this law change would affect 1,982 cases and reduce SDP costs by $869,000.”

But does it even matter?

The Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Network asked a Republican insider “Does this latest request by the SPD mean anything to anyone? He responded “Maybe to a few, but many will probably suspect Gov. Evers asked them to do it.


Governor Evers will put regulations with taxation of adult use and medical marijuana into his 2023-35 Budget.

It is all but guaranteed that Republicans on the powerful Joint Finance Committee will again strip any cannabis reform from the Wisconsin State Budget.

My 2022 Election Coverage uncovered that 100% of the current Democrats elected in the Assembly and State Senate are past sponsors of recreational marijuana or on record of support for legalization.

Not Guaranteed

A small victory or two can be declared as we did manage to elect a few friendly Republicans to the ranks in the the 2022 general election. Keep your eyes on these Republicans in the up coming legislative session. But also keep in mind there is no guarantee any Republican will even author or sponsor an adult use marijuana bill in 2023.

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