WI: Council Approves Marijuana Citation Ordinance, Easing Police Officers’ Jobs

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Janesville police can now issue citations for simple marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession instead of arresting the offenders after the city council approved a new ordinance Monday night.

“First I want to tell you what this ordinance is not. It’s not a statement about the legalization of marijuana nor is it the first step to the legalization of marijuana,” Police Chief Dave Moore told the council. “What this ordinance is about is a process efficiency to increase officer availability out in the field.”

Previously, Janesville police arrested violators of simple marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession and transported them to the police station or Rock County Jail for processing.

The arrests were referred to the Rock County District Attorney’s Office, and almost all were reduced to a county ordinance violation, according to a memo Moore wrote to the council.

Now, Janesville police can issue citations in the field similar to what they do with traffic violations, “allowing officers to remain in their patrol areas and better meet the needs of the community,” Moore wrote in the memo.

If an officer deems a person has enough marijuana for possible intent to distribute, that person can still be arrested, Moore said.

Citations for drug paraphernalia possession can apply to tools used for any drug, not just marijuana.

Violators will be breaking a city ordinance instead of a county one. The fine for violating the county ordinance was $250, and the city recouped little of that money after it was distributed to various sources, Moore said.

Councilman Rich Gruber suggested the city could consider reopening a municipal court as a way to secure more, but not all, of the fine money. He said he intended to bring that suggestion to Wednesday’s special council meeting, during which the council will start developing its 2019-23 strategic plan.

Council President Doug Marklein said the council would have to make sure the possible revenue outweighs the cost of operating a municipal court.

Echoing Moore’s opening comment, Marklein said legalizing marijuana in Janesville was not on the council’s radar. But he pointed out the Rock County Board of Supervisors is considering an advisory referendum to gauge support for legalization.

In other business, the council approved moving polling place locations out of Janesville public schools with a last-minute modification.

St. William Catholic Church, which had originally agreed to replace Franklin Middle School as the polling place for three west-side voting wards, backed out of the agreement Monday. Marklein was unsure why.

City Clerk-Treasurer Dave Godek said Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, 2940 Mineral Point Ave., would take over in November as the polling place for wards 5, 6 and 33. The church is unavailable for the August primary, so Franklin will host its final election later this summer.