NORML chapters move forward on West Milwaukee and Middleton pot fine reduction efforts

Posted: June 9, 2017 by Gary Storck
Category: Decriminalization

Volunteers with Southeastern Wisconsin NORML collected over 200 signatures in a campaign to reduce local fines for cannabis possession to $5 in the village of West Milwaukee.

According to Eric Marsch, director of Southeastern Wisconsin NORML, the group submitted 209 signatures to the West Milwaukee clerk on May 30. 187 signatures are required to place the direct legislation before voters. Marsch said the village now has 15 days to verify that at least that number are valid. The West Milwaukee village board then has the option of passing the revised ordinance themselves or putting it before city voters.

A June 8 Facebook update from Marsch included a copy of the updated West Milwaukee ordinance, in “proper form.” Marsch noted the village clerk is still in the process of verifying the signatures, but expects there to be more than enough.

Copy of proposed amendment reducing West Milwaukee pot fines to $5. (Source Eric Marsch)

Marsch says he expects to find out Monday June 12 if the revised ordinance is moving forward (passed by the village board or put on the ballot in the next election) or if additional corrections are required.

Cannabadger reached out to Marsch and here, in his own words is background on the campaign and NORML’s strategy going forward:

“After trying to do the City of Milwaukee and seeing how much effort 30,000 signatures takes, and then seeing the effort in Oshkosh where they put in a lot of work to collect over 4000 signatures only to be thrown out on a technicality, I decided we should start with a small, easier win, so we choose the Village of West Milwaukee.

The problem with doing such a small community is that they don’t lend themselves well to collecting signatures at public events (which enable the easy collection of dozens of signatures per hour), because there ratio of local residents to out-of-towners is so low, so we collected all of our signatures by going door-to-door, which was more time-consuming that we initially hoped.

We had originally started the collection in early February, but were unprepared for the amount of work that door-to-door collection would require.

On April 1st, we restarted collection, with the commitment needed to put in the hours needed. Dedicated volunteers are hard to come by, but five of us put in the 30 combined hours needed to collect the 209 signatures that will be putting us on the ballot.

The lower fine in West Milwaukee is a concrete victory that will make a difference in people’s lives, but it is also a proof-of-concept that shows that direct legislation is a viable means of changing local policy and forcing debate.

Already our all-but-certain victory has inspired people from across the state to reach out for assistance in starting their own direct legislation initiatives.

Our plan moving forward is to have several municipalities pass decriminalization measures in April of 2018, with fines low enough to make enforcement of cannabis prohibition impractical. This will show the legislators of Wisconsin that the people are sick of prohibition.

For November 2018, we plan to have dozens more municipalities, including many of the largest in the state, voting on significant decriminalization initiatives to force the issue into the 2018 legislative and gubernatorial races, and to activate our grassroots base to put pro-cannabis politicians into office.

To summarize, the strategy is to show that cannabis legalization is a winning issue with successful ballot initiatives, to make cannabis legalization a statewide issue in Nov 2018 with more initiatives on the ballot around the state, to get politicians to voice serious support for cannabis legalization because they now know it’s a winning issue, and then to elect those pro-cannabis politicians by having all of the volunteers who helped put the cannabis initiatives on the ballot volunteer shift their attention to the campaigns once the initiatives have made the ballot and the Nov 2018 campaign season starts.”

Middleton resident Casey Grady testifies before the Middleton City Council in favor of reducing city pot fines. (Source: Nate Petreman)

MIDDLETON: On June 6, activists from Madison NORML addressed the city council and were able to get them to vote to forward their request to review Middleton’s pot possession fines on to the city’s License and Ordinance Committee. NORML had planned to do this in May but the effort had to be briefly postponed when supporters were unavailable to attend. The next step will come Tuesday, June 13 at 6 PM when the License and Ordinance Committee will meet to review Middleton pot penalties . Supporters, especially Middleton residents, are needed to register or speak in support at that time. It was public support that put things over the top when Monona voted to remove penalties for adult possession. Please attend and help move this issue forward in another community.