It took nearly six years for Mayor Bob Miller to cast a tie-breaking vote at a Monona City Council meeting, and when he finally did Monday night, it was to effectively eliminate fines for possession of marijuana and its use in a private home.
“The main reason I will support this ... not because I don’t care about kids,” Miller said. “It’s pure and simple – it’s not a fair fine. It’s not a fair playing field. I don’t want to be somebody that adds to the racial disparities that are going on our community, our neighboring cities, our county. It’s not fair.”
The new ordinance will eliminate fines for possession in private and in public for up to 25 grams of marijuana for those 21 and older. People of that same age who use marijuana at their residence (indoors and outdoors) would also not be fined.
However, public use of marijuana in any amount would still be subject to a $200 fine.
More than a dozen residents of Monona and nearby communities made their cases before alders, who then debated the issue among themselves.
The initial proposal to change existing law was to reduce the fine to $1. Three alternatives were presented at the meeting, with aldermen eventually voting 3-3 on Andrew Kitslaar’s amendment, which was broken with the mayor’s yes vote.
Voting in favor of the change were Alders Kitslaar, Doug Wood and Chad Speight.
Opposed were Alders Mary O’Connor, Brian Holmquist and Jim Busse.
Supporters of the change cited current police action as one reason to eliminate the fines. Police are not actively searching for and citing individuals who possess and use marijuana. Rather, citations for marijuana are often the result of some other violation, from a broken tail light on a vehicle to a noise complaint at a residence.
They also cited the need for police to be spending their time on more important issues, including the heroin epidemic.
Opponents claimed the lowering or elimination of fines would send the wrong message to youths.
“Lowering the fine is the wrong path to follow,” resident Matt Marks said. “You’re sending a very bad and misguided message to our kids.”
Monona Grove High School junior Ben Kimmel also urged the council to not change the penalties for use and possession. He said students do notice what adults do and would not follow the adage of “Do what I say, not what I do.”
“I have seen many kids come in high at my school,” he said.
Speight told alders and the audience he believed that if what people do is not hurting others, they should be left alone to do as they please.
“If they are not harming others, who are we to judge?” he asked.
For his part, Kitslaar said eliminating the fine is a statement on the path to the wider issue of legalizing marijuana. He said he believed in the individual to decide for himself or herself to do what they believed was right.
“What you do in your own home is your own business,” he said.
There appeared to be some confusion on the part of some council members after the mayor broke the tie vote.
Initial discussion centered on the intent to debate the three amendments, one after the other. However, once the first amendment was approved, the other two proposals became moot.
Holmquist’s proposal was the same as Kitslaar’s except public possession would have resulted in a $200 fine.
Wood’s proposal was a $10 fine for public and private possession, as well as for private use. Public use would have remained at a $200 fine.
News Moderator: Katelyn Baker 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Marijuana Fines To Disappear For Most Adults
Author: Kevin Passon
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Website: The Herald-Independent