EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- If you're caught possessing marijuana in the city of Eau Claire, the penalty could be a lot lower than you'd think.
Legal in some form, medicinally or recreationally across 35 states, marijuana has become a hot button topic from the federal government all the way down to local municipalities.
Across the state of Wisconsin, where marijuana is currently illegal, 16 counties, Eau Claire County included, slotted an advisory referendum gauging public opinion about the legalization of marijuana in some form.
All 16 counties passed the advisory referendum.
"On a local level, we can't make it legal, but what we can do is reset the fine for any smaller possessions,” says Andrew Werthmann, Acting City Council President. “Once it came in that 85 percent of folks in our community either wanted marijuana to be fully legal or for medical use and only 15 percent wanted to continue to keep it illegal, I think that was a pretty strong message."
Right now, the penalty for possession of marijuana ranges from $100-$500, failure to pay resulting in 30 days in jail.
Under Werthmann’s proposal, the penalty would be just $1, with no possibility of jail time.
"The penalty right now does not fit the crime, what I mean when I say that is, you could be caught twice with a joint, you're going to be seeing a state felony charge, that changes your ability to rent an apartment, to take out a student loan," explains Werthmann.
Zach Zabrocki,a student at UW- Eau Claire says he’s not in favor of legalization, but says the proposal could be a positive thing.
“I think it's good because they're going to be able to put more resources towards things that matter a little bit more,” he says.
Others say moves like this could get Wisconsin moving in the same direction as the 35 other states.
“Going along with the whole traditional 21st century mantra, I think this is definitely going to keep escalating,” says Juliet Kratochwill, another student at UWEC.
The proposal will be introduced to the council at its meeting on Tuesday. A public hearing will be held November 26 and a vote is set to take place on November 27.
An Eau Claire City Council member is aiming to reduce fines for marijuana possession in the city.
The proposed ordinance amendments, brought forth by acting city council president, Andrew Werthmann, reduces the range of penalties for possession of marijuana from $100-$500 to just $1.
The amendments additionally reduce the amount a possession of marijuana citation is issued at by creating a new class of $1 forfeitures plus all applicable court costs.
This move follows an advisory referendum in Eau Claire County gauging public opinion on the legalization of marijuana.
The proposal will be brought to the Eau Claire City Council November 13.