Layers to the legality of Madison marijuana ordinance

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 10:32 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -The Madison Common Council is loosening marijuana restrictions making smoking on public property legal.

It’s a green light to decriminalize the adult use of marijuana in Madison.

“I think it’s a very important achievement we accomplished at city hall allowing the public use of possession of small quantities of cannabis,” Mike Verveer, Madison Common Council member said.

Verveer is leading the initiative. He said the ordinance is a change that’s long overdue.

“It no longer allows the MPD officers the discretion to arrest or issue citations to individuals using small amounts of marijuana,” he said.

The ordinance allows people 18 or older to carry up to 28 grams, (1 ounce) and consume it on public or private property.

“The citations in Madison municipal court will decline down to a trickle,” he said.

Keep in mind there are exceptions. Madison residents are not allowed to smoke marijuana in places where cigarettes are already banned, inside or within 1000 feet of a school or behind the wheel.

“Officers, if they saw someone smoking cannabis in public they would issue a citation, but now they won’t be able to issue a citation for that,” Marci Paulsen, Madison assistant city attorney said.

She said if there are other ongoing offenses, such as dealing, MPD would bring those incidents to the district attorney.

“It does legalize and criminalize it to the point the citation is less than what it was,” Paulsen said. “You could still be facing criminal penalties under state or federal charges depending on the amount you have in your possession.”

The Madison city attorney said the ordinance will go into effect after the Madison mayor signs it into law. It could happen as soon as next week.

Acting Madison police chief Victor Wahl responded to the ordinance being passed in a statement:

“The DA’s office has a general policy not to charge simple possession of mj cases for small amounts (less than 28 grams, typically). They will charge with unusual circumstances or if part of another criminal act/charge.

So, those instances where officers come across people with small amounts of mj have sometimes resulted in city ordinance citations for casual possession of mj.  This can be an important tool for officers who are trying to address other problem behaviors where no other options are present.  Now we will not have this option.

My preference would have been for any changes to marijuana law to occur at the state level, for consistency.  I also would have preferred that this ordinance change only apply to those older than 21, for consistency with alcohol regulations.”

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