Oshkosh City Council gets pot petition tonight, city attorney says reject it

Posted: November 28, 2017 by Gary Storck
Category: Decriminalization

While the Oshkosh city clerk has completed reviewing petitions collected to reduce cannabis fines to $25 in the city of Oshkosh and ruled petitioners exceeded the total needed under state law, the Oshkosh city attorney is contending the petitions seek to repeal or amend the existing ordinance which they claim is not permitted under state law. The city council has the petition on the agenda for tonight's (Nov. 28) council meeting which starts at 6:00 pm in Room 406 at city hall at 215 Church Avenue.

Mark Kelderman, who has been coordinating the Decriminalize Oshkosh campaign, reports the City Clerk's office has found decriminalization petitioners surpassed the required number of needed 3643 in collecting a total of 3778 valid signatures. The clerk also found petition language was consistent throughout as required.

A total of 4520 signatures were originally submitted on Nov. 6 at the conclusion of the 60-day direct legislation campaign. After a review, the city clerk determined that 609 were invalid, while another 309 were deemed "correctable," leaving petitioners 111 short of the total needed. Petitioners were then able to correct errors on around 250 signatures by getting affidavits from signers and resubmit those to the clerk.

While organizers feel they have complied with all requirements of Section 9.20 of Wisconsin Statutes, the Oshkosh City Attorney's Office laid out their position in a 5-page letter to city officials included in the agenda for the Nov. 28 city council meeting at which the petitions will be discussed.

The letter, signed by Oshkosh City Attorney Lynn A. Lorenson, recommends the Council receive and file the petition contending it "seeks to repeal/amend an existing city ordinance which is not a permitted subject for direct legislation."

City Attorney letter to Oshkosh City Council (Source: City of Oshkosh)

Lorenson goes on to suggest that if the Council wanted to look at reducing fine amounts, staff could draft an ordinance for future Council consideration to reduce forfeitures for first offense possession or write an advisory referendum on the question of reducing fines for first offense possession.

Despite the legal opinion, city council members still have the option of adopting the amendment or placing it before voters as a binding referendum.

The Oshkosh City Council meeting starts at 6:00 pm Nov. 28 and will broadcast live on the city channel here. The cannabis item is #29 on the agenda, "Res 17-584 Receive & File a Petition for Direct Legislation to Reduce the Forfeiture for Possession of Marijuana to $25," and if you scroll down to Page 196 of the agenda you will find 11 pages of related documents including the 5-page city attorney letter. Supporters are urged to attend and if you plan to speak you must pre-register.

The city council and Lorenson both opposed an earlier attempt from a year ago, with the council voting to accept and file petitions submitted without taking further action.

UPDATE: 11/28/2017 10:54:56 PM PM After listening to comments from the public and discussing their options, the council ultimately voted 7-0 to receive and file the petition as per the City Attorney's memo. There was discussion about drafting an advisory referendum question for the Spring election ballot which has to be done by mid-January 2018. Mayor Cummings repeated the false claim cannabis triggering schizophrenia and 5 of 6 council members seemed very hostile to any talk of pot law reform in spite of the effort that went into securing nearly 4000 signatures twice within a year's time.

Oshkosh Northwestern article from Nov. 29: Oshkosh shelves petition to cut pot fines despite advocates meeting signature goal