MacIver News Service | Feb. 21, 2019
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON, Wis. — When Gov. Tony Evers announced his “first step” proposal to legalize medical and recreational marijuana, he said he wanted to make it clear that the wide-ranging initiative wasn’t just about access to health care.
“This is about connecting the dots between racial disparities and economic inequity,” the Democrat said at a capitol press conference on Monday.
Surrounded by legalization advocates, including state Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and state Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison), Evers justified his call to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana (less than 25 grams) by making it a social justice issue.
The claim is patently false.
And it appears Team Evers knows that now, too.
The latest version of the press release on the governor’s web page scrubs the 75-85 percent “fact.” The release now notes, “This is an updated version that corrects an inaccurate statistic that was included in error.” It does not specify what the “inaccurate statistic” was, but the figure’s disappearance and actual facts fill in the blanks.
As NewsTalk 1130 WISN talk show host Dan O’Donnell noted in his column this week for MacIver News Service, 11 percent of inmates were incarcerated for drug-related offenses, according to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections’ most recent analysis of inmates.
That didn’t stop Evers and legalization advocates from spraying the Internet with such falsities.
Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate in the country for Black men, and drug-related offenses make up as much as 75-85% of inmate populations.
By decriminalizing marijuana, we’ll begin to address racial disparities and cycles of poverty in communities across our state.
— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) February 18, 2019
And the assertion about drug-related incarceration rates in Wisconsin received little to no vetting from mainstream media sources — both state and national.
NBC ran with the statistic, quoting Evers’ assertion in the original press release without challenging the Democratic Party talking point. NBC did run a correction stating that “an earlier version of this article mischaracterized the states that have relaxed laws related to CBD.” The correction went on to correct the mischaracterization, unlike the Evers press release.
WTMJ4 in Milwaukee ran Evers’ faulty stat as fact.
“In fact, drug-related crimes account for 75 to 85 percent of inmates in state prisons,” the TV station echoed.
WBAY in Green Bay at least tied the claim to the “Evers administration.”
The Evers press office didn’t seem all that interested in answering MacIver News Service’s questions on Thursday afternoon.
Does the governor have a comment on why this clearly erroneous statistic was included in the press release and tweeted out by the Evers administration and supporters?
As of publication, the governor’s press office had not answered that question.