Milwaukee Moves To Decriminalize Marijuana

Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist signed a measure into law decriminalizing the first time possession of small amounts of marijuana after the proposal squeaked by the city council.

The legislation, which passed on May 13, allows prosecutors to charge 25 grams or less of marijuana as a municipal ordinance violation rather than a crime. Fines will range from $250 to $500 or imprisonment of up to 20 days. Offenders would also have the option of performing community service or receiving substance abuse education.

Under state law, any first offense possession is a criminal charge punishable by a $1,000 minimum fine and up to six months in jail. Prosecutors in Milwaukee still have the option to bring more serious charges under state law.

Alderman Michael Murphy, who sponsored the measure, said that this bill may not be “politically popular,” but was about “fundamental fairness.” Murphy noted that most suburban towns surrounding Milwaukee punish first time marijuana offenders with municipal tickets, not criminal sanctions. “Nobody wants to be soft on crime, but we want uniformity in prosecution of these cases.”

An aide to the mayor called the ordinance “fair to the citizens of Milwaukee.”

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation at (202) 483-8751.