Jeramey Jannene

Should Milwaukee Eliminate Fine for Small Amounts of Marijuana?

Council tables a proposed policy change, but could pass measure on July 7th.

By - Jun 25th, 2021 11:13 am
A joint. Pixabay License Free for commercial use No attribution required

A joint. (Pixabcannabis, ay License).

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.

An individual would need to be 18 or older, in possession of less than 28 grams of marijuana (approximately one ounce), more than 1,000 feet from a school and not on a school bus.

“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.

Alderman Scott Spiker asked many questions about the proposal and noted that state law would still allow people to be charged. Milwaukee County recently reduced its fine for marijuana possession to $1 in March.

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.

Spiker, who frequently asks nuanced questions about policies, said he was being mischaracterized by public commenters. “The conversation about decriminalization is extremely important, but the state Legislature can address that, Congress can address that,” he said.

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.

“This can definitely be hashed out behind the scenes and then we can make it public for those that have comments,” she said.

Her intent is to present a final version to the full Common Council on July 7th for adoption.

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Related Legislation: File 201609

More about the Legalizing of Marijuana

Read more about Legalizing of Marijuana here

Categories: Health, Public Safety

One thought on “Should Milwaukee Eliminate Fine for Small Amounts of Marijuana?”

  1. NieWiederKrieg says:

    Everyone was smoking marijuana down by Milwaukee’s lakefront in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. There were free concerts at the “Alternate Site” on the weekends and we smoked down there. As far as I remember, most of the cops had longer hair and they smoked marijuana, too.

    Then Richard Nixon declared his “war on drugs”. I got busted coming back from Canada fishing trip into the United States by the U.S. Customs police. They found a marijuana seed in the driver’s seat of my car. They tore apart my car and everything inside it while three of us got strip searched in the custom’s office. Ever since then, I developed a severe hatred for Republicans.

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