Wisconsin: Madison City Council Majority Backs Up Municipal Cannabis Reform

Shepherd Express reports..

At the urging of Alderman Michael Verveer of Madison’s District 4, the Madison City Council will be voting on three proposed ordinances that would liberalize the city’s cannabis laws, further decriminalizing possession or use of small quantities of pot.

“Unless something very unusual occurs between now and when the City Council considers that matter, approval is assured,” Verveer assures. The ordinances all have at least 13 co-sponsors, more than enough to ensure a strong majority in the 20-member council. “The mayor is supportive as well; he has agreed to formally co-sponsor the measures,” Verveer adds. The ordinances have only been referred to the Public Safety Review Committee, which unanimously recommended their adoption on Wednesday, Oct. 14. According to Verveer, “It will move to the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 20.”

What Will Change?

Under the current statutes, marijuana is decriminalized in Madison when possessed or used in one’s private residence. That has been true since 1977, when the City Council of the time stripped the Madison Police Department (MPD) officers of their discretion when charging people for possession of cannabis in a private space—but not in public. To this day, while MPD officers have to turn a blind eye to small-time private possession, it is left to their discretion whether to issue a citation for public possession.

“The reality is that thousands of citations have been issued by Madison police officers. They had great discretion,” Verveer explains. “Over the years, the City Council has increased fines for a myriad of other offenses, but we froze the fines on casual possession of marijuana. Currently, the citation in Madison is $50 plus court costs; most of those court costs are required by state statute, and that makes for a total of $124 today.”

  • The first ordinance will change that, making it legal for any Madison resident age 18 or older to possess 28 grams or less of cannabis “on public property with the permission of the property owner, landlord or tenant or on private property,” it reads. “It would remove the discretion of Madison police officers to issue any citations for public or private use or possession of small amounts of cannabis,” says Verveer.
  • The second ordinance will remove MPD officers’ ability to issue citations for drug paraphernalia—any “secondary item” used to consume marijuana, in this case. Currently, if someone is caught in public with a small amount of weed and a bong, they could receive a separate fine for the bong under paraphernalia laws.
  • The third ordinance will add cannabis to local laws regarding smoking tobacco or vaping. “It would include marijuana in our ordinance relating to where smoking is allowed or prohibited in public places,” says Verveer.

“I am happy to finally see cannabis law reform in Madison close to coming to fruition. Of course, I have deep regret that this is only a baby step in the right direction. I strongly support legalization statewide—so many of our neighboring states have wisely done so over the last few years,” says Verveer.

Under the new proposed municipal laws, Madison residents would be essentially free to own marijuana and consume it wherever tobacco cigarettes are allowed. They would, however, still need to drive to one of the neighboring states that legalized it, like next door in Illinois. It is a federal crime to cross state lines with marijuana—even if you are crossing from one state where it is legal to another state where it is legal. Once the Madison ordinances become law, residents will be allowed to possess and consume something that requires a federal crime, which Verveer considers “absolutely ridiculous.” There is, however, no doubt that Wisconsinites do that already: In September alone, Illinois recorded nearly $18 million in marijuana sales to out-of-state customers, adding up to more than $107 million since January 2020.

More at.  https://shepherdexpress.com/hemp/cannabis/madison-city-council-majority-backs-up-municipal-cannabis-re/

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