GREEN BAY - Weed. Devil's lettuce. Bud. Ganja. Jazz cabbage. Kush. Laughing grass. Chronic. Sticky icky. No matter the moniker, as more states explore legality, Green Bay officials have approved an ordinance that eliminates the fine for marijuana possession, with some caveats.
The decision to lower the fines to $0 for possession of 28 grams or less of cannabis, plus $61 in court fees, breezed through city council in a unanimous vote that took less than 10 minutes to pass. It faces a second vote at the next council meeting before the revised ordinance takes effect.
People who are 21 or older will be allowed to possess up to 28 grams of marijuana in private or in public unless they're driving. They can smoke the drug in private but not in public, including in a parked vehicle, under the ordinance.
Those who are caught using cannabis in public may be slapped with a citation costing anywhere from $1 to $500, although the municipal court may trade fines for community service. The current maximum fine for possession of 28 grams or less is $500.
The vote comes after discussions on the topic went through two Protection and Policy Committee meetings in December and February, where city attorney Joanne Bungert revised the ordinance and assistant city attorney Rachel Maes provided research into possession fines in neighboring municipalities and the data on cannabis-related arrest rates.
It's a different game entirely for those under 21 years old, a point that council member Chris Wery made sure would be revised.
Before the council voted on the $0 fine, Wery asked Bungert to change the language of the ordinance to address penalties for those under 21 in possession cannabis. Wery suggested that the ordinance mirror language similar to that of underage alcohol offenses.
Fines for underage alcohol use, according to Wisconsin law, amount to $100 to $200 for a first offense, $200 to $300 for a second offense in a year, $300 to $500 for a third offense in a year and $500 to $1,000 for a fourth to subsequent offenses in a year.
The act of mirroring the underage alcohol possession and/or consumption amendment doesn't fully jive with cannabis possession. City Council member Bill Galvin brought to the council's attention that, under Wisconsin law, it is legal for underage teenagers to drink alcohol in the company of their parents.
"I want to make sure that we're not saying kids can smoke dope with their parents," Galvin said.
The council agreed to strike that exception from the amended ordinance. Parents and teenagers in Green Bay will not have lawful opportunities to get high together.