The governor of Wisconsin has granted another round of pardons, including dozens issued for people with prior marijuana convictions.
As Democratic lawmakers in the state continue to push for legalization amid opposition by GOP legislative leaders, Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced on Tuesday that he’s exercised his constitutional authority to provide relief to 82 more people, raising the total number of pardons under his administration to 1,111.
About one-third of the latest pardons were granted to people who had marijuana possession, cultivation or sales convictions on their records, with the majority of the cannabis cases related to simple possession. Another third of the overall grants of clemency went to people with other drug convictions.
In a news release, the governor’s office listed the names of people who received clemency, the crime they were charged with and a brief description of their life today, for example:
Joshua Haus was in his late teens when marijuana was found in his residence. Now residing out of state, Haus has obtained a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, became an ordained pastor, and is an active volunteer in his community.
Anthony Cervantes was in his early 20s when he was found in possession of marijuana. Over a decade later, Cervantes has maintained steady employment as a taxi and limo driver since 2005.
Raul Garcia Jr. was in his late teens when he was found in possession of marijuana. Almost a decade later, Garcia has maintained steady employment and is a dedicated father and husband.
Christopher Henry was in his mid-30s when he was found in possession of marijuana. Now over two decades later, Henry has completed coursework toward a degree in forestry and volunteers with a local softball league.
Scott Vanden Heuvel was in his late 20s when he was found in possession of marijuana. Now, over two decades later, Vanden Heuvel has worked as a project manager for a real estate developer for 13 years and has become a grandfather.
Charles Hermann was in his early 20s when he was found in possession of marijuana. Now, Hermann has started a family and maintained steady employment with UPS for over two decades.
Evers, who had already set a clemency record in December 2021 for most pardons from a Wisconsin governor, said that it “continues to be a privilege to hear about individuals’ lives, work, and what they have done to overcome their past mistakes and build positive, rewarding lives for themselves and their families.”
Receiving a pardon doesn’t mean that a person’s record is expunged under Wisconsin law. Rather, it’s an official act of forgiveness that restores rights like being able to serve on a jury, hold public office or receive certain professional licenses. People can apply for clemency, and they’re eligible for pardons if it’s been at least five years since they completed their sentence, with no other pending criminal charges.
Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard (D) cheered Evers’s latest acts of cannabis clemency, writing in a social media post on Friday that “the most dangerous thing about cannabis in Wisconsin is that it’s illegal.”
The governor has leveraged the pardon process throughout his tenure, often providing the limited relief as he continues to advocate for broader marijuana legalization that could prevent people from facing a cannabis conviction in the first place.
But so far, the GOP-controlled legislature has refused to go along with the reform, stripping marijuana proposals from the governor’s budget requests and declining to advance separate legislative measures such as a legalization bill from Agard.
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Just this week, Agard started circulating an online petition for people to sign to pressure their state representatives to hold a hearing on the cannabis legislation.
The petition also directs to a constituent services page with materials on Agard’s legalization bill, her informational illustrated “zine” on marijuana reform and other resources for people to get familiarized with the proposal, which she unveiled at a hemp farm in September.
But arguments about the potential benefits of legalization have not yet translated into meaningful legislative action in the Badger State. Republican leaders have said they’re working on limited medical cannabis legislation, but a bill to that end has not yet been formally introduced this session, despite Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) saying they intended to get it out “this fall.”
Another GOP lawmaker in the state, Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R), said recently that Democrats like Agard who are advocating for comprehensive legalization are detracting from efforts to advance incremental reform. But as the minority leader has pointed out, Republicans wield control of both chambers and could theoretically move whatever version of the reform they’d like at any point.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Revenue released a fiscal estimate of its economic impact earlier this month, projecting that the reform would generate nearly $170 million annually in tax revenue.
Separately, bipartisan and bicameral Wisconsin lawmakers recently came together to introduce a bill that would create a psilocybin research pilot program in the state.
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