Newshawk: Wisconsin NORML www.winorml.org
Pubdate: Sun, 18 Jun 2006
Source: Wisconsin State Journal (WI)
Copyright: 2006 Madison Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Dan Simmons, La Crosse Tribune
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/pot.htm (Cannabis)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?159 (Drug Courts)
LIGHTER POT PENALITES ALLOWED
La Crosse County authorities have the option of issuing citations and fining people found with small amounts of marijuana, instead of charging them with a misdemeanor.
The La Crosse County Board has adopted an ordinance that allows lesser penalties for people accused of possessing under 25 grams of the drug for the first time. The debate Thursday included testimony from the district attorney, a judge and the sheriff.
District Attorney Scott Horne argued against the measure, saying the current system identifies problem offenders early, before they move on to more serious drug abuse and criminal behavior and does not taint their records if they follow court-ordered education and community-service programs.
"The ordinance sends the wrong message to the community and removes the current emphasis on education and assessment," he said.
But La Crosse County Circuit Judge John Perlich, who presides over the county's drug court, then displayed four criminal complaints for minor marijuana possession from a recent day, reciting a long list of clerks who spent time filing and processing the complaints.
"All this for a low-risk offender. All this costs you, the taxpayer, a lot of money," he said.
But like Horne, La Crosse County Sheriff Michael Weissenberger voiced strong opposition to the ordinance. Marijuana possession, even in small amounts, is reason for concern, he said.
"How do we know the person didn't just get done selling more of it?" he said.