Current state law says cities and towns cannot prosecute anyone caught with more than 25 grams of pot or anyone for their second offense. However, a new bill would give municipalities that option. It wouldn't change things in all cities in our area, but it would give most law enforcement and court systems more options.
Right now in La Crosse the municipal court can only enforce the city's ordinance that prohibits possession of 7 grams or less of pot.
"We can only do first time offenders if it's a second offense or more than 7 grams it has to go over to circuit court," Judge Dennis Marcou said.
This new bill could change that. The bill would allow municipalities like La Crosse to pass ordinances prohibiting possession of any amount of marijuana and allow the municipal courts to prosecute second offenses.
"It really wouldn't affect it at all if the council doesn't enact any kind of legislation. They would have to pass an ordinance that says that we can do a second or third offense and we can now do possessions of 25 grams or less," Marcou said.
Over in Onalaska the city's ordinance is a little different. Police can enforce anyone caught with 25 grams or less of marijuana... so the new state law wouldn't be much of a change.
"The way we do it right now is that its an officers discretion of anything that is 25 grams or less of sending it to municipal court on the first offense. So when you get up to 25 grams you're looking at an amount that typically would be sent to the prosecutors office," Onalaska Police Chief Jeff Trotnic said.
Trotnic says it would simply give them more choices.
"So what this does it gives us flexibility, it gives us more options but it's not going to mean that there's going to be more arrests or there's going to be necessarily more charges going into the municipal court but again it gives us that options if we need it to, Trotnic said.
In La Crosse City Council member Ryan Cornett thinks this shouldn't be an issue lawmakers are dealing with.
"We should be focusing on the larger drug issues. This is a non issue the real issue is cocaine meth and heroin in our state right now and they should be focusing on that right now," Cornett said.