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What led to Marathon County hearing proposal to lessen penalty for marijuana possession | Top Stories

WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) — Residents and county leaders made their opinions heard Wednesday on a proposal to lessen the amount someone gets cited for on possession charges of fewer than 25 grams of marijuana.

“Why would this body of smart, intelligent people, concerned for the safety of all residents, bring this ordinance forward,” county resident Joanne Leonard asked during a public comment portion of discussion.

The proposal sought to change an already existing ordinance.

The current citation for fewer than 25 grams is stated as a fine of between $5 and $500. The proposed change would see the number drop down to $50.

“We have set up every single one of our ordinances to be consistent at that $250.90 so that we have consistency and structure in all the ordinances we enforce,” said Marathon County Chief Deputy Chad Billeb.

While nothing was officially decided on, much of the conversation revolved around whether or not marijuana would be decriminalized in the county as a result, which was not the stated intent.

“The Marathon County Sheriff’s Office has no interest in decriminalizing marijuana,” Billeb said.

“As a county government, we cannot make it legal here. That is not within our authority,” said County Supervisor Jeff Johnson.

Johnson is advocating for lowering the fine, while acknowledging, by law, people would still get in trouble for having it to some degree.

“If they’re not up to anything else, they’re not all causing trouble, breaking laws, but they came back from the U.P. and they want to enjoy a little THC on occasion, that they don’t have to fear being put in the criminal justice system,” Johnson said.

Other parts of the conversation discussed how making the change may relieve stress from the District Attorney’s office. District Attorney Theresa Wetzsteon has concerns about what the proposed change would mean, but says the conversation surrounding the topic is not all negative.

“I do struggle as the district attorney with one size fits all as far as the penalty goes because I think there needs to be some discretion,” Wetzseton said.

Talks were recommended to continue with the county’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, who is set to meet later this month.

This discussion was live streamed on the county’s YouTube channel. Click here to see it in full.

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