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A group of African American lawmakers in Madison says a plan to decriminalize marijuana in Wisconsin will be good for the economy. 

Rep. Shelia Stubbs, D-Madison, and Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee, joined Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes Wednesday at the Capitol in Madison to push for decriminalization and expungement. 

"Decriminalization will increase equity, increase opportunity for people to participate in the workforce, and increase the number of people who can clear their name and remove the burden of the criminal justice system," Stubbs said. "It will also decrease racial disparities."

Stubbs, Crowley, and Barnes all hit on the same points. Not arresting people for small amounts of marijuana will help people get jobs and will keep more people of color out of jail and prison. 

"A generation of black men and women have been lost to the failed war on drugs," Crowley said. "How many more people have to be lost before we get the courage to do something about it?"

Crowley said decriminalizing marijuana will give people "access to employment and access to opportunity."

The specifics of the legislation would stop police from arresting people for having less than 28 grams of marijuana. The proposal also sets out a path for people to clear their records of any arrests, that under the proposal, would not be crimes. 

"In my hometown of Milwaukee, there is a study that points out how black people make up 72 percent of marijuana arrests and 40 percent of the population," Barnes added. "Marijuana use is even across the racial board. If anything the disparities behind who ends-up being punished for using marijuana is more criminal than the act itself."

There are a number of Democratic co-sponsors of Stubbs' and Crowley's plan from across Wisconsin. But, so far, there's not much support among Republican lawmakers. 

It will likely stay that way. The head of the Wisconsin Senate, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, has made it clear that he doesn't want to change Wisconsin's laws regarding marijuana. The state's law enforcement groups are also wary of any new laws that they believe will allow more people to use drugs. 

Staff Reporter

An industry veteran with two decades of experience in media, Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square.