Should Milwaukee Eliminate Fine for Small Amounts of Marijuana?
Council tables a proposed policy change, but could pass measure on July 7th.
A proposal to further decriminalize marijuana possession in the city of Milwaukee is moving forward, but not without plenty of questions.
The ordinance change, sponsored by council members Chantia Lewis, Marina Dimitrijevic, Nikiya Dodd and JoCasta Zamarripa, would eliminate municipal fines for possession of marijuana in many scenarios.
“This is not a thing that we are legalizing it by any means,” said Lewis to members of the Public Safety & Health Committee on Thursday. “My intent is to eliminate ticketing for those small nuisance consumption [citations] we see.”
The alderwoman said she hopes the change would eliminate a “pipeline to prison” and pushes the state towards legalization.
A March report from the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office found that Black people are 3.2 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession and 4.3 times more likely to be convicted. The rate of pot use is equal among white and Black people in Milwaukee County, data shows.
The change would eliminate the fine for those complying with the distance, age and volume restrictions, while raising the fine from $0 to $50 to no more than $100 for those that aren’t. Court costs would still be imposed by the state.
But proponents and opponents alike have questions about the school-distance restriction and the age restriction.
Eric Marsch, head of the Wisconsin Cannabis Activist Network, said the school radius would cover 41% of the city when all private and public schools are considered. He said the net effect could be doubling the fine for more than 40% of the city.
He said allowing 18-year-olds to possess marijuana would allow some high school students to be a connection for their friends. “The problem is clear, he said. “If you want it keep it out of schools, allowing 18-year-olds to possess without penalty might be a concern.”
He compared it to the problem with the minimum age for tobacco consumption, which the state raised to 21 last year.
“I hate to go all Sally Struthers here, ‘think of the children,'” he said. “That’s a really old reference.”
The ordinance change removes references to “marijuana-related paraphernalia” from the code and Spiker said that could result in a proliferation of bongs and other items being sold at gas stations and convenience stores “like State Street in Madison.”
But ordinance proponent Bethany Crevensten said she lives in Spiker’s district and that’s already how things are.
Following questions about the school radius and potential unintentional impacts from repealing code sections dealing with other drugs, Lewis said changes would be made to address the issues.
After more than an hour of testimony, she moved to hold the measure to allow further revisions.
Her intent is to present a final version to the full Common Council on July 7th for adoption.
If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.
Related Legislation: File 201609
- Should Milwaukee Eliminate Fine for Small Amounts of Marijuana? - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 25th, 2021
- Can We Talk About Marijuana? Democrats Ask - Melanie Conklin - Jun 7th, 2021
- 9 Takeaways on Local Marijuana Laws - Edgar Mendez - Jun 2nd, 2021
- High Time to Support Cannabis Legalization - State Sen. Melissa Agard - May 5th, 2021
- Op Ed: Senate Leader Blocks Marijuana Reform - Iuscely Flores - Apr 27th, 2021
- Cannabis Backers Switch Focus to Local Laws - Isiah Holmes - Apr 26th, 2021
- It’s Time for Legal Cannabis in Wisconsin - A Better Wisconsin Together - Apr 20th, 2021
- Evers, Advocates Discuss Justice System Reform, Legalizing Pot - Graham Kilmer - Apr 17th, 2021
- GOP State Senate Leader Dismisses Marijuana Legalization - Laurel White - Apr 16th, 2021
- Thousands of Wisconsinites Sign Petition in Support of Cannabis Legalization - State Sen. Melissa Agard - Mar 29th, 2021
Read more about Legalizing of Marijuana here