Madison NORML has announced they are suspending until Spring 2017 their campaign to ask Monona voters whether city pot fines should be reduced to $1.00 plus costs. Madison NORML had launched the campaign in May after the Monona Public Safety Commission voted down a proposal to lower pot fines at an acrimonious meeting in February 2016.
Madison NORML President Nate Petreman issued the following statement:
“This was our first attempt at collecting signatures for a binding referendum. We took 45 days to prepare, but it turned out that experience was what was needed. Now we have that and are adjusting our strategy to align with successful practices. In the first four weeks, our signature collection rate was under half of what it was the remaining four. This was due to multiple factors including the fact that we didn’t get the postcards out until after the campaign started, didn’t understand the best way(s) to collect signatures to be successful and in reality we underestimated the complexity and difficulty. We made the miscalculation of thinking people would come to us, but our data shows that the best investment of time is going door to door. This and other information will be used to start our template for signature collection for a binding referendum. The number of signatures we collected will be used to get our jump start for collecting signatures in Monona in the Spring once the weather breaks.”
In the interim, the city of Monona does have the option of revisiting this issue before 2017. While NORML did not reach their goal, hundreds of Monona residents signed the petitions. Combine that with the close 5-4 vote in Feb. by the Monona Public Safety Commission, with a now former alder and PSC member apologizing for bullying a colleague. during the debate It is clear that vote did not reflect the views of the city as a whole. Monona leaders also need to keep in mind the recent Marquette Law School Poll finding 59% support for regulating cannabis like alcohol in Wisconsin. While they cannot fulfill their community’s wishes for full legalization, they can vote to reduce penalties to $1.00 as Dane County and Fitchburg have done. Perhaps with some new faces in city government and a mayor who has been supportive the council and the PSC might agree to pass the amended ordinance and avoid putting the city through another direct legislation campaign in Spring 2017. If you are a Monona resident, please urge city leaders to take action.