Brief

Senate moves to increase criminal penalties for butane hash oil

By: - October 15, 2021 6:06 am
Cannabis leaf in the sunset marijuana

Marijuana leaf in the sunset | Kym MacKinnon on Unsplash

A Senate  bill that would increase penalties for using  cannabis extracts passed 5-1 in the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety on Thursday. The bill would increase already existing felony penalties for possession or distribution of extracts with concentrated THC oils, like butane hashish.

The bill, which would continue the drug war against cannabis in Wisconsin, passed the committee without any discussion. Committee chair Sen. Van Wanggaard moved to recommend the bill for passage. In early October, the bill’s Assembly counterpart was discussed in the Assembly Committee on Substance Abuse and Prevention. Both committees are controlled by Republican majorities.

In the Assembly committee discussion, Rep. Jesse James (R- Altoona) repeatedly compared butane hash oil and similar products to methamphetamine. He pointed to the manufacturing process which, if done improperly, can be dangerous due to flammable components in the process. The bill’s penalties, which mirror proposed legislation around fentanyl production and distribution, were crafted by the West Central Drug Task Force, comprised of law enforcement representatives from six counties stretching from the Mississippi River to the middle of Wisconsin.

More than half of U.S. states have legalized cannabis, including states that border Wisconsin, as well as Canada. Republicans shot down attempts by Gov. Tony Evers to fully legalize cannabis in Wisconsin. Evers’ proposed framework could have brought an estimated $165 million in tax revenue, which he proposed putting into an $80 million community reinvestment fund. Meanwhile, local municipalities have moved to lower penalties around cannabis possession while the plant remains illegal. Cannabis has been decriminalized in Madison, and fines in Milwaukee for simple possession have dropped to not more than $1.

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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.

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