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Marijuana: Wisconsin's Dane County (Madison) Will No Longer Prosecute Simple Possession

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #476)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues

The Dane County, Wisconsin, District Attorney's Office will no longer prosecute simple marijuana possession cases involving less than 25 grams (nearly an ounce) of pot. Prosecutors said it wasn't an effort to decriminalize marijuana, merely recognition of limited resources and setting priorities for the office.

"There's been some adjustment in our policies," Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard told reporters March 1. While Blanchard acknowledged that state law defines marijuana possession as a crime, he said his office had different priorities. "We're simply going more wholesale to saying 25 grams or less of possession of marijuana -- not a crime."

With Dane County having the same number of prosecutors it had 20 years ago, prosecuting marijuana possession offenses cannot take priority over other crimes, Blanchard said. "We're about to have the same number of prosecutors in this office that we had in 1988," he noted. "We struggle to staff child abuse cases, so when it comes to something like marijuana possession we are not going to be handling it as aggressively as we could."

While state law mandates up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for simple marijuana possession, Dane County residents will now be looking at only a citation. In Madison, a ticket for pot possession could cost up to $109, but in some smaller Dane County communities, the fines could be much steeper, as in Fitchburg, where users could be hit with a $1,300 ticket. County communities without a local marijuana ordinance can submit cases to the District Attorney's Office, which will issue citations for violating the county anti-marijuana ordinance. That carries a fine of up to $310.

"Marijuana possession is one of the least significant cases we get in our office," Blanchard said. Cases with victims -- such as sexual and physical assaults and thefts -- take priority, he said. The county faces much more serious drug problems than marijuana, Blanchard said. "I don't think we have a marijuana problem in Dane County. I think we have a heroin problem. I think we have a crack problem... I think we have a much larger alcohol problem than we have a marijuana problem."

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Anonymous (not verified)

Madison & Dane County have basically been doing this for decades. The new policy makes it official.

In fact, the 30th anniversary of the passage by Madison voters of Madison Ord. 23.20 is this April 5. Ord. 23.20 is the second oldest decrim ordinance in the US, as well as the oldest mmj law in the world still on on the books.

Madison NORML is having a celebration and commemoration of this historic date on April 5, 2007.

For more on this and other WI cannabis news, visit the Madison NORML website and blog at

Gary Storck

Fri, 03/09/2007 - 11:34am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Excellent. Madison has always surprised me with its liberalness towards marijuana - it's the "Berkeley of the Midwest" in more than one way.

I think the strongest piece of Blanchard's statement is "I think we have a much larger alcohol problem than we have a marijuana problem." Madison is an alcoholic city - it is not perceived as a problem, because alcohol is socially acceptable, but it is an enormous problem.

Still, I hope we can eventually come to address adress alcohol, heroin, crack, and marijuana abuse as personal ills that require treatment, not jail time.

Fri, 03/09/2007 - 1:45pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Don't get too excited about Madison. This is a budgetary matter - not a moral one. And let's not forget that three years runnning Madison threw a massive halloween party with about 80,000 of its closest friends. The city's response to this was to lock down the city with stadium lights, tear gas, cops on horseback - altogether about $250,000 worth of tax money.

Kids would take to the streets as the barrels dried up at the house parties and the bars closed at 2. All they had to do was let the bars stay open until 4 or 5 (I live in chicago now - the 4 o clock bars fill up at 2 and are mostly clear by 3:30. That would have brought MORE money in to the tax base via the bars. But the city decided they would spend a massive amount of taxpayer money killing people's hampsters (yes that happened) with massive amounts of tear gas that infiltrated building's ventilation systems.

Not to mention the proliferation of crooked and aggressive cops in Madison that have nothing to stimluate their hunger for oppression in such a moneyed and liberal city so they make a habit of warrentless searches and treating simple graffitti cases like CSI Miami.

Madison has rampant homelessness, 3 police departments to serve ONE downtown area, a party line about "diversity" with just as much segragation as any other city in the USA, a mayoral conference where corporations make undemocratic bids to the nation's mayors without any press coverage or checks and balances, oppressive police response to assembly, the list goes on.

In chicago the gang task forces would let me go at the drop of a dime (no pun intended) with a bag of weed in my pocket for the same reasons the DA's office in Madison is just beginning to wake up and realize they don't have the resources to prosecute Marijuana offenses anymore. It's becoming a big city up there. With big city problems like rapists in the streets, people getting jumped walking home because someone's trying to get in to a gang, heroin and crack epidemics, and all of the social ills that come with social stratification. Madison is no Berkley. It's a city with a Big Ten school known for partying and all of the "alternative" ideas that come with a proliferation of drug culture. The implementation is as lacking in Madison as anywhere else.

Fri, 03/09/2007 - 5:33pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Oh yeah. I know some people through people of people etc. This gentleman was busted with about $100,000 and something like 100 lbs. of pot in madison. His friends sold him out. He's still in prison. And his lawyer who comes highly recommended by Madison NORML is recommending that he narc out some more people to get himself out of prison in a timely fashion. So much for a hardlined response to the drug war.

Fri, 03/09/2007 - 5:36pm Permalink
ALEXANDER J. L… (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)


Thu, 01/21/2010 - 4:28pm Permalink
Anonymous1 (not verified)

In reply to by ALEXANDER J. L… (not verified)

Who is right then?
If the narc believed it was ok to narc in the first place because he/she thought it was wrong, are you implying that no one can blame her? But you are....

Obviously he/she thought it was ok to narc because she/he did it. So you're kinda contradicting yourself here with this argument.

There is absolute truth.
Saying otherwise (there is no absolute truth) is self-refuting.

It might have been a d-bag move but, someone has to be right because "doin what you believed to be ok in the first place" isn't always not harmful to others

Thu, 04/01/2010 - 4:34am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Madison NORML was founded in 2004. I am unaware of the episode you claim happened with your friend and his attorney. Sounds like you are grouching about something that happened years ago. Let it go!

Sat, 03/10/2007 - 12:06pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

100 pounds will get you a long time in jail just about anywhere, and the best atty., NORML or not, usually is not going to be of much help. In general though, Madison is an oasis of sanity when it comes to marijuana prohibition.

Sat, 03/10/2007 - 12:23pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

37th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival is October 6 & 7, 2007 in Madison!

Sat, 03/10/2007 - 12:51pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

i'll find some flame in mad city. this dro is insane no joke. oregon's notorious weight pushers are supply of madison, stoughton, verona, and mcfarland. dro get grown.

Wed, 05/21/2008 - 4:16pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

i hope that if your a madison cop reading this that you burn in hell,you all are a bunch of pricks and i hate this city,iv lived here for 20 years and i can say with pride madison cops are scumbags with hate filled ballons for brains,fuck off pricks

Sun, 08/24/2008 - 4:45am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Wow.. and I thought I was the only one who felt this way... good to hear I'm not! They are fucken ignorant assholes who overstep their authority!

Tue, 11/18/2008 - 8:21pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Born and bred in Stoughton, WI and been smoking since i was 12. No tickets no hassle. We regularly would cruise around the good old country roads when we were kids until we realized that if we cruised around in town (especially after gas got expensive) that no one really cared, short of puffing a blunt next to a cop car. I went to school in Milwaukee and when we were driving back to stoughton on the interstate we would count the miles until we were back in dane county and bust out the pipe and light up. Although i would have to disagree on where it comes from (not Chicago either), i have never had to smoke shwag because there has always been dro. I am spoiled.

Tue, 09/02/2008 - 6:51am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

medical bliss in CA. legalized and fightin the DEA. dispenseries all over the state. please USA join the sensibility and decriminalize us all. liberty and tokes for all

Sun, 10/19/2008 - 9:00pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

pot/cannabis/marijuana is a hella lot safer to smoke than anything else out there and u cant get an OD why don't they just admit thy cant control every one in the country and it is just stupid to think making it illegal would stop people from smoking it what is the big threat. its pointless there's no way they can control everyone what they gonna through everyone in jail for smoking a plant that makes us feel good, why not just recognize just how pointless it is and make it legal

Sun, 01/11/2009 - 6:46am Permalink
Anonymous1 (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

you're right... we should just make other things legal too? making it illegal DOES deter people - even if it is less immediately physically harmful than drinking a pitcher before driving home.
Not that I'm against your cause, but seriously if that is all you have to say for your argument - you've smoked yourself retarded. Try relating it to the tax $$ to keep everyone arrested from marijuana possession - then you'll catch even conservative ears.

Thu, 04/01/2010 - 4:06am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

i think legalizing pot would boost the economy everyone could make a living selling the bud and people wont be poor plus we would have something to relax with bring down stress and slow suicide possibly it would get alot of people to loosen up who need it we all need to get baked every so offten

Sun, 01/11/2009 - 6:59am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

hey i saw a lot of sites describing legal bud u order online its mailed to u and u smoke it is it a scam cuz i think its too good to be true

Sun, 01/11/2009 - 7:03am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Just look around you can find the real deal. No joke, madison gets some HEADY NUGS. Trainwreck, Jack Flash are stinking up my jar right now.

Fri, 02/27/2009 - 5:59pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

ANd how do you morons think the CHI gets the skunk buds? We honestly get alot of buds medical growers buds from OREGON and CAL.

Fri, 02/27/2009 - 6:00pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

There is a verse in genesis, the very first book in the bible for those who do not know, that sais "i have given you all the seed bearing plants and herbs to USE" now as a christian i need no other permission from any fake government official who tells me i cannot use the cannabis which was given by the allmighty for the betterment of the human race. why else do we find history of cannabis use for thousands of years, hell, even before the bible was written. In eighth grade i did a report on medical marijuana, lord knows i got alot of ridicule from some of my classmates, but i beilived in my issue, and did quite well on it. now if an eighth grader talking about medical marijuana can get through to a teach, why cant millions of adults get through to our government. i am now 20 years old in case anyone was wondering, and i want to hear what ever anyone has to say about this very important issue, not only to the US, but the entire human population. my email address is [email protected] oh and if anyone knows what is going on in wisconsin with the medical marijuana bill please let me know thank you

Fri, 04/24/2009 - 3:14am Permalink

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