Over the past few years, more than 11 states have moved to legalize recreational marijuana, including neighboring states such as Michigan and Illinois. With a handful of dispensaries opening north and south of the state’s border, many Wisconsin residents have been crossing state lines to indulge in, or purchase cannabis products.
The increase in “weed tourism” has created headaches for Wisconsin’s law enforcement agencies, and created confusion for residents over the differing state laws. Still, here in the Badger State, not much has changed: it remains illegal to possess, smoke, or ingest marijuana in the state of Wisconsin.
It’s important to note that Wisconsin has legalized cannabidiol, or CBD, which is the non-psychoactive extract of cannabis typically used in oils, lotions, and food products. Recreational marijuna, however, is only legally sold to people ages 21 and older at dispensaries outside of the state.
In fact, the Wisconsin State Patrol issued a stern warning to residents who were thinking about visiting and bringing weed back into the state.
If you choose to use recreational marjijuana in Illinois, for example, you could find yourself in trouble if you’re caught driving on Wisconsin roads under the influence of the drug. Not only do you risk an OWI offense, but you could also be hit with other charges such as illegal possession of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia. And since marijuana possession is still illegal at the federal level, transporting cannabis over state borders can quickly result in felony drug trafficking charges.
Most people incur charges during a routine traffic stop. Even if a person doesn’t feel high, should a law enforcement officer suspect marijuana use or possession, they may be able to obtain a search warrant to investigate the vehicle — or request a blood test to determine traceable levels of THC. That means if you’re a regular marijuana user, you could potentially be charged for driving under the influence even when there is zero proof of impairment.
As a zero-tolerance state, Wisconsin issues harsh penalties for people convicted of drug offenses. While a first-time marijuana offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a $1,000 fine, an added federal offense could result in anywhere from five to 10 years imprisonment, and fines upwards of $10,000 or more.
There are also other severe consequences that could impact your future for years to come, including losing your driver’s license, difficulty securing employment or a business license, loss of voting, termination of firearms rights, or difficulty obtaining housing.
If you are a first-time offender, you may be eligible for conditional release. In Wisconsin, this allows alternative or diversion sentencing — such as opting for probation — rather than a jury trial. In some cases, this may mean your criminal record will not reflect the charge.
Even as surrounding states relax legislation on marijuana laws, Wisconsin isn’t expected to legalize cannabis anytime soon. If you’ve been found in possession of marijuana during a traffic stop, or charged with a marijuana-related OWI, your best chance at avoiding or lessening charges is to speak to our experienced team of criminal defense attorneys. We can help determine whether law enforcement followed all necessary legal steps during your arrest or whether the marijuana charges filed are valid.