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Reduced fine for cannabis possession heads for La Crosse city council after committee approves

Reduced fine for cannabis possession heads for La Crosse city council after committee approves

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Joint

In this Nov. 9, 2016 file photo from the Associated Press, a marijuana joint is rolled in San Francisco.

La Crosse’s Common Council will vote on decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, or cannabis, after a committee approved the resolution on Tuesday night.

The resolution was approved in a 4 to 2 vote by the Judiciary & Administration Committee, and would reduce charges for possessing 25 grams or less of cannabis to a fine of just $1.

Currently, the small fine is only offered for those who possess seven grams or less, and anything larger could result in criminal misdemeanor charges of up to $1,000 and jail time.

The reform was proposed and sponsored by council member Roger Christians, who said he supports the move because he thinks state leaders are dragging their feet to legalize cannabis when most Wisconsinites support it.

“It’s left to individual municipalities to do whatever they can do,” Christians said.

But he added that it was personal, too, and that he had three friends with chronic pain, one of them with Parkinson’s disease, and his wife, who suffers from pain after a broken bone in her back, who were interested in using it medicinally.

“It can and does help people,” Christians said.

Several members of the public spoke at the meeting in support of the legislation, and La Crosse Chief of Police Shawn Kudron said that his department would comply with any measures that were approved.

One woman spoke to the committee about her arrest in the 1990s for possessing 28 grams of cannabis in La Crosse. She said she lost her job, spent 90 days in jail, lost custody of her children and paid $1,800 in fees.

“It was actually life changing,” she said.

City council member and committee chair Andrea Richmond and council president Martin Gaul both voted against the resolution, though Richmond did not speak on the matter.

Gaul said that while he supports legalizing medical, and possibly recreational, cannabis in Wisconsin, he didn’t support changing the fine in La Crosse for fear of creating an unfair system for those who use the substance.

“I do not believe that this is a subject that is in the purview of the council,” Gaul said. “We are liberalizing the demand side for this product, while the supply side in the state of Wisconsin is still highly illegal.”

“I’d ask the people in Madison to do their damn jobs,” he added.

Similar legislation has passed in other areas across the state, including in nearby Eau Claire, and Madison and some of its suburbs.

And recent polling shows that 83% of Wisconsin voters support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes, and 59% support full legalization. Specifically in La Crosse County, 63% of voters support legalizing.

This reduction in fines for the city of La Crosse will go before the common council on July 9 for final approval.

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