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City of Antigo passes ordinance to decriminalize small amount of marijuana

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City of Antigo Votes

The City of Antigo, Ordinance No. 1245B, Ordinance Prohibiting the Possession, Manufacture and Delivery of Drug was passed by a vote of 7 – 1.  I did speak to Police Chief Eric Roller who reiterated that this is by no means a “light on drugs” approach by the City of Antigo Police Department, as was a concern of the opposition to the ordinance change.  Although some opposition, Chief Roller indicated general support for the ordinance.

Antigo has made the marijuana news over the past months, but this recent news does not seem to be connected to these incidents and although Northern Wisconsin NORML has had activists in the field working the area, this recent initiative in adopting this ordinance was not lead by our group or marijuana activists at all.  In fact, the ‘decriminalization’ approach seems to have been spear headed by the police chief himself.  After our conversation I did refer him to L.E.A.P. (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) and plan to follow up with sending some printed literature about the LEAP, the issue and plan to write an additional letter to the editor to be submitted to the local newspapers.

Here is a story from the Antigo Daily Herald offering additional information on the subject:

Common council may trim criminal penalty for marijuana, but raise fines

Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012

The Antigo Common Council may lower the criminal penalty for possessing small quantities of marijuana, while increasing the punch to the offender’s pocketbook Wednesday.

The council will convene at 6 p.m. in the chambers at City Hall, and the main item of interest will be action on an ordinance related to possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana and related paraphernalia.

The ordinance, which has been approved by the Finance, Personnel and Legislative Committee, was developed at the request of Police Chief Eric Roller. It would decriminalize possession of a small amount of the controlled substance, making it a simple ordinance violation, and set a fine of $200 plus costs for a total of $389.

It also sets a forfeiture of $150, exclusive of costs, for possession of drug paraphernalia, referring to the equipment, products and materials used for using marijuana and other controlled substances.

In a memo to aldermen, Roller stressed that the switch from criminal to simple forfeiture status for marijuana within the city limits is “not to relax our stance of the seriousness of the drug issue, though to give a more immediate consequence to the small amounts of marijuana or drug paraphernalia that our officers come across during the course of duty.”

Currently, those found with small amounts of the drug are referred to criminal court, creating a time-consuming process for the officer, Roller said. The subject is often entitled to a public defender, funded by taxpayers, and due to court backlog “many cases are pled down without consequences that the officers feel are sufficient.”

The ordinance status, Roller saidm would also be a potential revenue generator for the city, since it would keep the $200 forfeiture amount, with court costs split between the county and state.

After a citation, a second offense would still result in court referral as a misdemeanor. A third offense would advance to felony status.

“A city ordinance for these violations would allow a quick response to the violation with a stronger financial impact on the individual,” he said, adding it would still shed “a message of the seriousness of the drug issue.”

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