Council moves closer to lower marijuana penalty

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The Oshkosh Common Council took another step Tuesday toward reducing the penalty for possession of marijuana in the city with a final decision likely to come in two weeks.

The council dropped one alternative that would have cut the penalty for a small amount of possession to $50 after the chief of police pointed out that the proposed ordinance had some unintended consequences.

Because this proposal was based on weight, it could cause some complications if marijuana edibles, such as cookies or brownies, were involved, said Chief Dean Smith. Such products, even if they contained a small amount of marijuana, would weigh enough to trigger a criminal charge, he warned.

Instead the council is moving ahead with a proposal to reduce the penalty for possession from $325 to a lesser amount. Council Member Thomas Pech Jr. had proposed the lower amount be $200, but several council members said they would like to see the penalty drop farther.

“I have a problem with a $200 fine because it is out of line with other progressive cities,” said Council Member Jake Krause.

Mark Kelderman, a Brownsville resident who has helped to organize the penalty reduction drive, urged the council to put the issue before voters. He noted that nearly 4,000 citizens signed a petition calling for a change in the city ordinance.

“Put it out there,” he said.

But he said any reduction would be welcome. “We can live with that and will be appreciative.”

The meeting drew a standing room only crowd, swollen in part by students enrolled in a UW Oshkosh class and by many wearing pro-marijuana T-shirts.

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Miles Maguire

Miles Maguire is the author of Advanced Reporting: Essential Skills for 21st Century Journalism. He was the founding editor of the Oshkosh Community News Network, a nonprofit online news organization whose work was cited as a notable innovation in journalism in the 2005 Knight-Batten Awards. Send questions, comments and suggestions to miles.maguire@yahoo.com.

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