The Capital Times and other sources reported this week that Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and the Dane County Board are working on revising the county’s cannabis possession ordinance to reduce fines for possession of less than 25 grams of pot to $10.
In 2010, the board placed an advisory referendum on medical cannabis on county ballots for the Nov. 2010 election that passed with 75.49% of the vote, carrying every ward.
In January 2014, supervisors voted to place another advisory referendum asking county voters if they supported the legalization of cannabis on Spring election ballots. On April 1, 2014, the legalization referendum passed with nearly 55% of the vote.
The current ordinance allows fines of up to $1,000 for possession of less than 25 grams of marijuana, close to an ounce. According to the fiscal note, the average forfeiture actually imposed in 2014 was about $110 plus court costs.
The Capital Times notes that Parisi’s hope is that the county’s action will spur local municipalities to reduce fines:
“Municipal fines throughout the county for possession of small amounts marijuana range anywhere from Madison’s minimal $50 charge to Fitchburg’s comparatively whopping $1,000. With court costs, the Fitchburg total tops $1,300.”
“Hopefully we wouldn’t want someone who makes a mistake, especially a young person who gets caught with a small amount of marijuana, to have the penalty be so severe that it basically propels them further into the criminal justice system instead of helping them find their way back on the right path,” Parisi said.”
The resolution’s next step will be a vote by the full county board. The date of the vote had not yet been set as of this writing.