D.A. says Eau Claire's marijuana ordinance works, but fines unbalanced

By: Kelly Schlicht Email
By: Kelly Schlicht Email

In a split decision, the La Crosse common council voted last night to decriminalize the possession of marijuana under a certain amount for first time offenders. The City of Eau Claire says it already has a similar ordinance on the books.

Amounts less than 25 grams would be considered municipal violation under the city ordinance in La Crosse, which is the same amount in Eau Claire. Fines and tickets would be similar to fines for shoplifting or speeding.

Eau Claire County District Attorney Rich White says for the past eight years, not having to criminal prosecute first time possession offenders of small amounts of marijuana has helped shrink the case load in his office.

"My Assistant District Attorneys and I can spend time on more serious matters," says White.

White says he feels fines stop otherwise law-abiding people from having the illegal drugs.

"Most of these show they're just bad judgment decisions, and it’s rather reasonable and probable to believe that it won’t happen again," says White.

However White says the fines are unfair. In Eau Claire, the municipal ordinance violation fine for first offense possession of THC less than 25 grams for someone with no prior record is $501.

But, White says the fines handed down by judges in criminal cases for misdemeanor possession of the same amount is generally much lower, at roughly $267.

"It really should be consistent with what we do in most criminal cases,” says White.

City Council President Kerry Kincaid says she wasn't aware of the difference in fines, and the council hasn't taken a look yet at changing them.

"We have to ask the question of what is the effectiveness of a $500 fine. Does it keep people out of the system?" says Kincaid.

White says the ordinances banning small amounts of marijuana are fairly common across the state, and he feels they're necessary as budgets for the justice system become tighter.

Onalaska and La Crosse County already have similar ordinances in place.

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  • by Seriously Location: WI on Oct 16, 2010 at 09:55 PM
    I am not misguided nor part of the problem-in your world the only threat is someone taking your plant, your high. I live in reality. Philo, there is no PROVEN/SUPPORTED findings that marijuana helps even in a medical setting. For aids patients it increases their appetites, but lowers their white blood cell counts, for cancer patients it reduces nausea yet it can actually cause it to spread because it weakens your immune system. It is a catch twenty-two. It is a high plain and simple-it alters a person from reality nothing else. YES Philo, it can be addicting. Let's legalize it so more of my tax money can pay for drug rehab for the losers who are out of control. Philo, I am wide awake. I have seen first hand what marijuana does to a person-quite frankly it ranks up there with alcohol-it disgusts me. My kids are putting their lives on the line to KEEP AMERICANS SAFE-not so you can smoke your plant! Grow up!
  • by Philo Location: Eau Claire on Oct 16, 2010 at 01:21 PM
    Seriously, I hope you wake up some day and realize that you have been part of the problem for a long time. You can't support something as tyrannical as the violent prohibition of consensual adult behavior and in the same breath claim that you and your family 'fight for FREEDOM.' All of the myths you have brought up are nothing but scare tactics that prohibitionists have been using since the beginning of their misguided ANTI-AMERICAN cause. I'm not the one putting people in cages. I'm not the one taking your kids away over a PLANT. I'm not a bigot.
  • by Seriously Location: WI on Oct 14, 2010 at 07:53 PM
    Philo, it is funny how you keep preaching this-you keep insisting you are an AMERICAN who deserves his freedoms. Yet, you are quick to bash the people that protect your freedoms each day. You also only preach on behalf of what you want-never stating the complete fact just the parts you find valid for your argument. Interesting enough, it was just released that the state of CA is looking at legalizing it only for the financial gain as they know the drug isn't going to go away. However, they have done research to find it will actual increase the drug trafficking-the only difference it will not be crossing the southern border it will be domestically and can be distributed though our postal system and never detected creating an even larger drug problem in the US. This will only cause more "drug wars" among local growers/dealers. Note this statement was released by advocates for legalizing marijuana. They also state there are negative effects, but the money wins. Nice cause you support.
  • by Philo Location: Eau Claire on Oct 12, 2010 at 11:42 AM
    Seriously, the point is that in a FREE nation we are not supposed to be making money by fining adults for engaging in non-violent, consensual behavior. The 'drug war' industry is one that should never have been created in the first place.
  • by Seriously? on Oct 12, 2010 at 07:21 AM
    Wow...do I hope this passes. If they quit putting money into busting people for pot...that alone would make up any money they lose issuing fines! I can think of lots better ways to make money!
  • by weedluva Location: eau claire wi on Oct 10, 2010 at 03:42 PM
    That is awesome. Its about time the law realizes that weed is harmless
  • by Anonymous Location: Eau Claire on Oct 9, 2010 at 02:01 PM
    The DA is right the penalty is unequal. He and the judges are wrng though. $500 is not too high. The City of Eau Claire has imposed a reasonable penalty. The judges should use that as their benchmark when they decide on the fine for a criminal offense. THey shouldn't be the ones that decide the proper penalty for a city ordinance. The people do that. THey should get in line.
  • by Philo Location: Eau Claire on Oct 9, 2010 at 09:05 AM
    If Mr. White actually wanted to "...spend time on more serious matters," he would join Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and seriously consider dropping Eau Claire's involvement in the failed war on personal freedom. "White says the ordinances banning small amounts of marijuana are...necessary as budgets for the justice system become tighter." What about tightening the budget up by eliminating ineffective legal intervention into consensual adult behavior completely? Getting rid of prohibition laws will work to put more of the already tight budget toward eliminating the VIOLENT threats from our society. We DO NEED prisons and jails, but we are NOT supposed to be filling them with anyone other than the true violent monsters among us. Putting non-violent humans in cages makes US the monster. I, as an AMERICAN, do not want to be a monster any longer, but as long as these bigoted laws are still in place, we are nothing but. Mr. White, ask your mirror if it's doing the right thing.
  • by Anonymous on Oct 8, 2010 at 08:10 PM
    Is Kincaid that clueless? "Does it keep people out of the system"? And for Rich White to explain how the tickets are a money maker for the city! Wow! What insight into our politicians!
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