Newsbrief: Wisconsin Judges Push to Make Marijuana Possession a Citation, Not a Crime 6/22/01

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County judges in La Crosse County, Wisconsin, are fighting with the local district attorney over their plan to reduce minor marijuana possession from a misdemeanor offense to a citation, the Associated Press reported. Under Wisconsin law, counties and municipalities can pass their own ordinances for some crimes, including first-offense possession of small amounts of marijuana.

If the judges' plan is approved, local police and sheriff's deputies would have the option of charging defendants under either the local ordinance or the existing state law. In practical terms, such a move could mean the difference between receiving the equivalent of a traffic ticket and being arrested and booked with the possibility of six months in jail.

La Crosse County District Attorney Scott Horne opposes the move. He told the La Crosse County Board and La Crosse Common Council he wanted to retain current misdemeanor penalties, but would support an education and treatment program.

Police in some localities in the county have written tickets for marijuana possession for years, the AP reported, but in other locations, pot smokers go to jail.

County Judge John Perlich, who is leading the judges' push, said marijuana possession ought to be a local ordinance violation, not a state misdemeanor. "The punishment ought to fit the crime, and I don't think it does," he said.

For would-be students caught with marijuana, the law could make the difference between losing or keeping their financial aid for school. Under the drug provision of the Higher Education Act, misdemeanors or felonies trigger the financial aid penalty, not lower-level violations as proposed by the judges.

It could be months before the board and council decide on the proposal, the AP reported.

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Issue #191, 6/22/01 Editorial: Stop the Violence | Oxycontin Panic Spreads: Pain Patients, Doctors See Legitimate Use Threatened | As Plan Colombia Stalls, US War Hawks Call for Mo' Better War: Aerial Eradication at Virtual Halt, but Neo-Cold Warriors Want to Wage War on Guerrillas | Louisiana Sentencing Reforms Await Governor's Signature: Many Mandatory Minimums Abolished, Drug Sentences Halved | Newsbrief: With Garza Gone, Fed Prosecutors Prepare to Seek More Death Penalties in Texas Drug Case | HEA Update: Congressional Cosponsors, Your Help Needed | Return of the Repressed: Hash Production Revives in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, Farmers Vow to Fight Eradication | Creeping Cannabis Normalization in London: Scotland Yard to Stop Arrests in Lambeth, Medical Distributor Open in King's Cross, 30,000 Attend Cannabis Freedom Festival | AMA Scientific Affairs Council Recommends Pro-Medical Marijuana Platform, Organization Declines for Now, Takes Smaller Steps Instead | Newsbrief: Wisconsin Judges Push to Make Marijuana Possession a Citation, Not a Crime | San Mateo County, California, Receives Legal Government Marijuana for Medical Research | New Kunstler Fund Video Documents Tulia Atrocity | Job Opportunity: Toronto, Canada | The Reformer's Calendar

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