(Patch) — As attitudes toward marijuana continue to shift in Wisconsin, one city has now taken the sting out of their local marijuana possession citations.
On Tuesday night, the City Council in Eau Claire passed a resolution on an 8-to-2 margin to reduce the fine for marijuana possession to $1 for first-time offenders.
According to a WPR report, “The change is meant to send a signal to state and federal policymakers that the city is de-prioritizing enforcement of marijuana laws.”
City Council member Terry Weld was one of the two people who voted against reducing the fine.
“It is still against the law, and even if we legalize medicinal or recreational use, it’s still not going to be permissible to smoke a joint while you’re driving your car or walking down the street,” Weld said in the WPR report. “So there will be a citation and I really, strongly believe that the citation should be equal to drinking a beer. They are equal, if not… I would say that a beer is not going to impair your judgment as much.”
Eau Claire Police Chief, Gerald Staniszewski, said in a statement that the actions of the police department aren’t going to change just because the citation amount is now different:
“The community must have confidence that the police department enforces existing laws fairly, impartially and consistently. I cannot give direction to our police officers to ignore behavior which is a violation of local, state, or federal law.”
Even though the fine may be $1, first-time offenders are still on the hook for $148 in court costs, and the offense will remain on their record. First time offenders also have the option of choosing to pay a higher fine of $200, and go through a diversion program.
Attitudes Changing On Marijuana Use
Voters in support of legalizing marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes smoked their opponents in ballot measures in several southeastern Wisconsin counties in early November.
The 16 counties with the advisory referendum are Milwaukee, Rock, Dane, Sauk, Brown, La Crosse, Marathon, Portage, Clark, Langdale, Marquette, Eau Claire, Forest, Kenosha, Lincoln and Racine.
Eau Claire residents supported a November ballot measure that asked whether cannabis should be legal and taxed. The ballot measure was non-binding, though did serve as a bellwether for the shifting attitudes toward marijuana.
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