Monona committee tables proposed changes to pot law

Supporters report that in the face of opposition from multiple residents, the Monona Public Safety Commission abruptly reversed course and voted not to make proposed changes to the city’s cannabis ordinance, tabling the issue indefinitely Wednesday evening.

The 5-4 vote leaves the current $200 fine ($313 with court costs) in place. Madison NORML’s Nate Petreman told us the deciding vote came from Alder Brian Holmquist, who he had been working with on the issue. Only two residents spoke in favor; Petreman and another resident. Five spoke against including one resident calling for harsher penalties who was allowed to run on for 15 minutes. Another opponent also called for harsher penalties.

Also speaking against was Alder Jim Busse. Busse and another opponent both referenced a 2015 ASAM research by arch-cannabis prohibitionist Dr. Michael M. Miller M.D. FASAM and others.

After the commission’s last meeting Jan. 27, Monona’s Herald-Independent wrote, “Members of the Monona Public Safety Commission appear to be leaning toward legal possession and use of marijuana by adults in a private setting.”

The decision came as quite a turnaround, suggesting a high level of organized effort by local prohibitionists trying to stop another small but important step in a trend that appears unstoppable, with more states preparing to vote on full legalization this November, joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia plus 23 more that have legalized medical cannabis.

At the Jan. 27 meeting, commissioners debated whether to lower the fine for use or possession from the current $313 to $1 or eliminate the issue completely from the city’s code, leaving state and federal enforcement as the only options. Under that proposal, the use and possession of marijuana would be legalized in private homes, and the $1 fine would be for those using in public places.

Sgt. Detective Ryan Losby, who wrote the proposed changes to the ordinance, was not in attendance Wednesday night. According to the Herald Independent, at the Jan. 27 meeting, Det. Losby noted the nationwide trend to legalize marijuana and said he favored removing the law from the books saying police have other, more substantial issues to deal with than marijuana use, like the serious heroin epidemic gripping the area.

“Thinking about it now, I don’t see a police officer writing a citation for a dollar and wasting the resources of us and the courts. If there’s an interest in this, completely take it off the books except for the juvenile offenses … and lighting up in public,” Losby said.

NORML’s Petreman says the group is looking at filing paperwork and collecting signatures to place a binding referendum on the ballot. An estimated minimum of 719 valid signatures is needed to proceed.

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