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Marijuana in Milwaukee: Arrest Trends and Implications

Our new research finds that arrests of individuals in the City of Milwaukee on charges of possessing small amounts of marijuana (with no simultaneous violation) declined by 53% from 2012 to 2015. In addition, a new protocol developed by the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) and Milwaukee County District Attorney should limit criminal prosecution of low-level marijuana offenders in the future.

Additional key findings:

  • Disparities exist with regard to those arrested for marijuana violations in Milwaukee. Of the low-level arrests, 72% involved African Americans, 82% involved individuals under the age of 30, and 88% involved males.
  • Arrests are disproportionately occurring in poorer areas of the city.
  • Despite the recent Common Council action to lower the maximum fine to $50, MPD officers still arrest all individuals charged with possessing small amounts (versus issuing citations on the street).
  • In 2015, the MPD could have saved up to $141,000 and 3,040 hours of officer time if officers had not been required to make arrests.


Media Coverage

"Crafting a Sane Marijuana Policy"
Shepherd Express

"​Arrests down, disparities remain in enforcing local marijuana laws, report finds"
Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

"​Report: Marijuana Citations Plummet in Milwaukee"
WUWM Lake Effect

"Milwaukee marijuana arrests studied in Public Policy Forum report"
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel