Dane County: "There's been some adjustment in our policies." Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard knows the state defines possession of marijuana as a crime. But from now on his office won't be treating it like one. "We're simply going more wholesale to saying 25 grams or less of possession of marijuana-not a crime."
Blanchard isn't trying to decriminalize marijuana. He simply doesn't have the staff to prosecute minor possession cases. "We're about to have the same number of prosecutors in this office that we had in 1988."
A recent analysis by the state says Dane County needs eight more prosecutors to keep up with a growing caseload.
Blanchard says he has to prioritize. "We struggle to staff child abuse cases, when it comes to something like marijuana possession we are not going to be handling it as aggressively as we could."
This doesn't mean marijuana possession is legal in Dane County. But instead of facing 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine, criminals are looking at a citation.
"I don't like it. I'll be honest, I don't like it," says Town of Madison Police Chief Scott Gregory. He says he won't have his officers change anything. "Our job as a law enforcement agency is to make those arrests when we have probable cause and let the District Attorney's Office do what they believe is best."
If the D.A.'s office rejects the case, the Town of Madison could write a municipal citation.
The Sheriff's Department won't even bother referring the cases to the D.A. "We'll be abiding by the request of District Attorney Brian Blanchard and issuing a county ordinance citation," says Sheriff Dave Mahoney.
Both Chief Gregory and Sheriff Mahoney say they understand the staffing problems in the D.A.'s office. "It's frustrating, but it's budgets," says Gregory.