Turning over a new leaf?

Under state law, possession of marijuana, even a small amount, is no joke. It’s a misdemeanor the first time and a felony thereafter. Several Wisconsin cities, however, have passed slap-on-the-wrist ordinances intended for their police officers to enforce instead. The title of Wisconsin’s most-cannabis-conducive city, as a result, is no longer Madison’s by default.

Thumbs Up: Madison
Way back in 1977, Wisconsin’s capital became the second city in the U.S. to decriminalize marijuana, allowing residents to possess up to 112 grams in their homes without fear of penalty or seizure. In April, surrounding Dane County lowered its possession fine to just $1, plus court costs.

Thumbs Up: Milwaukee
In June, city officials lowered the fine for possession without intent to distribute to $50 or less, down from $250-$500. And while local officials have been relatively quiet on the issue, a group supporting the legalization of medical marijuana in Wisconsin leased a prominent billboard along Interstate 94 in September.

Thumbs Up: Stevens Point
The cozy college town voted 7-4 in August to lower its first-time possession fine to $100.

Thumbs Up: Menominee Nation
The northeastern Wisconsin tribe is considering whether to make itself into the Colorado of Wisconsin. In August, 77 percent of its members voted in favor of allowing medical use, and 58 percent supported recreational legalization. The final decision rests with tribal leaders who, as of press time, had not made a ruling.

Thumbs Down: Marshfield
The war on drugs is far from over in the eyes of Marshfield leaders who, despite having a local ordinance covering marijuana, tend to rely on the state law. Their reasoning? The theory that marijuana is a gateway drug leading to more dangerous substances.

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‘A New Leaf’ appears in the December 2015 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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