Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth: No discussion of changing county pot fines

Kenosha County Sheriff David G. Beth. (kenosha County Sheriff's Dept.)
Kenosha County Sheriff David G. Beth. (kenosha County Sheriff’s Dept.)

The decriminalization article originally recently published by the Stevens Point Journal that was then picked up by the Associated Press continues to reverberate around Wisconsin. The latest media outlet to publish a local version is the Kenosha News, titled, As cities lower small-scale pot penalties, no changes proposed locally (Sept. 5). These articles have been useful in tracking current law enforcement attitudes toward cannabis law reform in Wisconsin.

Back in May, Cannabadger looked at the situation in the City of Kenosha with this post, Kenosha City Council Cool to Reducing Pot Penalties but say debate inevitable.” There have been no further developments reported for decrminalization in Kenosha itself as of this writing

The article reveals Kenosha Sheriff David Beth says he had no discussions of passing a county ordinance to dispose of minor cannabis possession cases as forfeitures instead of misdemeanors or felonies. Below are the relevant sections pertaining to Kenosha County: Sheriff Beth, a Republican who was first elected in 2002, previously served as the county’s first DARE Officer starting in 1989.

No local changes in works

In Kenosha, possession of small amounts of marijuana is a Class A misdemeanor with a $100 bond. If you’re caught with less than one ounce of marijuana — without the intent of selling it — the citation is $452.50 in Kenosha County.

“It’s exactly the same as it’s been for years,” Kenosha Sheriff David Beth said. “It hasn’t changed and there hasn’t been any discussion of changing it.”

Some law enforcement officials don’t support decriminalization because they believe marijuana can lead users to harder drugs. But decriminalization advocates think lesser penalties for those caught with marijuana allow them to be treated like other minor offenders.

Not only is Sheriff Beth not actively looking at creating a way to treat possession of small amounts as a local ordinance violation, the Kenosha News says that he opposes AB224, the hybrid legalization/medical use bill introduced by Rep. Melissa Sargent and cosponsored by twelve state assembly representatives including Sargent, as well as Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha, along with three state senators. All AB224 sponsors are Democrats.

State action

For the second time, state Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, has introduced a statewide marijuana legalization bill aiming to make communities safer and eliminate racial disparities — a measure so-sponsored by Rep. Tod Ohnstad, D-Kenosha.

But Beth said he is strongly opposed to the legalization of marijuana.

“I would not support that for one second,” he said.


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