Dear Editor: Three cheers to the Madison Common Council for approving changes in the local ordinances to decriminalize cannabis. I believe Wisconsin is sadly falling behind on the opportunities to grow, sell and tax cannabis. We remain an island of prohibition in the Midwest. Our Illinois neighbors are on track to achieving an estimated $1.2 billion in cannabis sales.
I also hope that this is just one step toward progress. The next issue to tackle is the expungement of criminal records.
It simply isn’t fair to those who have committed victimless crimes of marijuana possession in the past to continue to have criminal records after this ordinance changes. With the disproportionate impacts of drug law enforcement on people of color, expungement is a key step toward racial justice.
While expungement is challenging and won’t be an automatic process, I encourage city and county leaders to look to other cities as examples.
Cincinnati passed their decriminalization ordinance with increased funding for their city manager to pay for expungement services. In five counties in California and in Cook County, Illinois, an organization called Code for America used algorithms to sort out low-quantity marijuana conviction records from more complex ones.
We have to keep putting pressure on our state leaders to do the right thing and we have great advocates in Sen. Melissa Sargent and Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes. I’m proud to live in a city like Madison that can lead from the local level.
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