The Village of West Milwaukee is trying to pull some shenanigans on us.
At the village board meeting, the board unanimously voted to reject the petition, on the advice of the village attorney, who told them that the ordinance we are attempting to pass is in conflict with state law. This action of the village board is illegal, in violation of Wisconsin Statute 9.20(4) which gives the village board only two options at this point: either pass the ordinance as-is, or put it on the ballot.
We have attempted to contact the village attorney to resolve the issue, but they have not responded to us. After some research, it appears that we can file a civil lawsuit against the village, seeking what is called "mandamus". Mandamus is when the courts compel the village to perform its mandatory duty.
Such a lawsuit will likely incur a cost, so we are still hoping to resolve the issue with the Village of West Milwaukee outside of the court system.
The following is the email I just sent to the village board, the village clerk, and the village attorney. It goes into detail about why the village board does not have the authority to make the decision it did, and what we plan to do to remedy the situation.
Hello, I am Eric Marsch, the Executive Director of Southeastern Wisconsin NORML, the group that submitted the 9.20 marijuana decriminalization petition at the end of May.
I am writing to inform you that on July 17th, the village board made an illegal and unconstitutional decision to reject our petition, in violation of the separation of powers as well as its "mandatory, ministerial, nondiscretionary" duty laid out in Wisconsin Statute 9.20.
A call to the village attorney to resolve this situation was not returned. I am hoping that the village board will put our decriminalization ordinance back on the agenda, where they will either pass the ordinance as-is or put it on the ballot for the people to vote on, as Wisconsin Statute 9.20 mandates.
There are a couple pieces of information that I want to bring to your attention:
1) The ordinance we submitted is in full compliance with state law. The Village Attorney's claim that our ordinance is in conflict with state law is entirely without merit. Wis. Stat. 66.0107(1)(bm) clearly states:
[The board or council of any town, village or city may:] Enact and enforce an ordinance to prohibit the possession of marijuana, as defined in s. 961.01 (14), subject to the exceptions in s. 961.41 (3g) (intro.), and provide a forfeiture for a violation of the ordinance; except that if a complaint is issued regarding an allegation of possession of more than 25 grams of marijuana, or possession of any amount of marijuana following a conviction in this state for possession of marijuana, the subject of the complaint may not be prosecuted under this paragraph for the same action that is the subject of the complaint unless the charges are dismissed or the district attorney declines to prosecute the case.
In addition, the exact ordinance language we are using is already in effect in Shorewood, and similar language is in effect in dozens of municipalities across Wisconsin.
2) A legislative body (the village board) is not authorized to make judgement regarding the validity or constitutionality of an ordinance proposed under Wis. Stat. 9.20; that is the prerogative of the courts. The Wisconsin Supreme Court made this explicitly clear in the 1977 case of Althouse vs. Madison - which is cited in the footnotes of the docs.legis.wisconsin.gov distribution of the 9.20 statute - stating:
"We conclude... it is not the prerogative of the common council to reach a conclusion with respect to the unconstitutionality or invalidity of the proposed ordinance."
"We conclude the only inquiries permissible by either the council or the trial judge at the mandamus hearing were in respect to whether the ordinance was legislative in nature, whether it proposed new legislation and not the repeal of existing legislation, and whether it was proper in form."
"We conclude that, where there has been no specific prior adjudication of unconstitutionality, the electorate under the direct legislation statutes, may compel placement on the ballot regardless of grave doubts in respect to constitutionality and statutory validity. Only after the measure has passed and a controversy arises may a court of this state pass upon the question of constitutionality. While it is asserted that Wisconsin is a jurisdiction which limits the scope of direct legislation, our examination of the Wisconsin cases convinces us that Wisconsin law permits the electors under the direct legislation statute to compel a common council to enact or to place on the ballot any proposed ordinance which the common council in its legislative capacity could enact."
"We should also emphasize that the intervention of the common council at this juncture of the direct legislation process not only flies in the face of the mandatory provisions of sec. 9.20, Stats., but also would almost totally vitiate the policy behind the direct legislation statutes."
"it seems clear that a city council is in no position, either by virtue of its function or by virtue of its constitutional powers, to forestall proposed legislation on the basis of its unauthoritative conclusion in respect to constitutionality."
As a courtesy to the taxpayers of the Village of West Milwaukee, we simply request that the village board put our ordinance back on the agenda for either the August 21st or September 4th village board meetings, with the assurance that the matter will be dealt with in accordance to the mandatory duties set out in Wis. Stat. 9.20(4).
If we do not hear back with such assurance by end of day next Friday August 11th, we will file a Complaint for Mandamus with the Milwaukee County Circuit Courts to compel the village board to act in accordance with the law. In such a case, we will pursue restitution from the village to cover any legal costs we may incur.
I hope this situation can be resolved quickly and without cost to either party.
Southeastern Wisconsin NORML
We have a couple big updates regarding our local decriminalization initiatives!
We just received word last week that we collected enough signatures in West Milwaukee to move our $5 decriminalization initiative forward! We turned in 209 signatures, and the village found that 205 of them were valid, well more than the 189 we required. The ordinance now moves to the village council, where they have only two options:
- Enact the ordinance right way; or
- Put the ordinance on the ballot for the people to vote on
We are confident that the ordinance will pass if brought to a vote of the people of West Milwaukee, and we are prepared to Get Out The Vote for the initiative if it does end up on a ballot. But, we would rather the council pass the ordinance right way so the people of West Milwaukee can benefit from the reduced penalty for cannabis possession as quickly as possible.
We want as many West Milwaukee residents as possible to come to the village board meeting on Monday July 17th to show support for reducing cannabis fines. The meeting is at 7pm at the West Milwaukee Community Centre’ (1345 South 45th Street, West Milwaukee).
West Milwaukee may be a small village, but this is a huge victory!
Several cannabis decriminalization petition initiatives have been attempted by multiple groups across the state over the last few years, all of them failing for one reason or another. The lessons we learned from those failures lead to this victory, and the lessons we learned from this victory will propel us forward to many more victories in the near future, culminating in the statewide legalization of cannabis for medicinal and recreational use just a few years from now!
Thank you to Greg Banks, Chris Kresser, Chris Alberti, and Adrian Love for their hours of help collecting signatures! Thank you to Mike McAlister for designing our fliers! And Thank you to Bill Sanders and the crew at Record Head for collecting signatures at their store! This was a great group effort, and I greatly appreciate all of your help!
Southeastern Wisconsin NORML is teaming up with the Racine Green Party on a $1 decriminalization initiative in Racine. Racine requires 3,741 signatures to force a ballot initiative, and we have a goal of 4,500 signatures to ensure we'll have enough. We currently have over 1,300 signatures and we will be petitioning at several more events in Racine before August.
The more volunteers we have, the faster we can complete Racine and move on to more municipalities around the state. We are looking for volunteers to help collect signatures at some local events coming up:
SE WI NORML will be coordinating signature collection outside of Summerfest from 3-8pm on the following days:
- Thursday June 29th
- Saturday July 1st
- Saturday July 8th
- Saturday July 9th
We're splitting the work into 2.5 hour shifts (3-5:30 and 5:30-8), but even if you can help for an hour anywhere in there, your help will be appreciated!
We are also looking for volunteers for the Fourth of July celebrations in Racine, where we will be collecting signatures most of the day.
If you would like to help out with the petition drive in Racine, email us at email@example.com. All volunteers will receive a free WI NORML t-shirt, a WI NORML pin, and a stack of WI NORML stickers!
We will also be holding our next meeting in Racine, at 6pm on Tuesday June 27th at the Racine Green Party office (4601 Washington Ave, Racine, WI). Come on out if you're in the Racine area!
These local initiatives are our main focus for the next year. Wisconsin's constitution doesn't allow us to perform statewide ballot initiatives, so we can't legalize cannabis the way Colorado, California, etc all did, we have to go through the state legislature. Unfortunately, the current legislature, especially the Republicans in it, refuse the budge on even medical cannabis. To get cannabis legalized in Wisconsin, we need to elect many new people to the legislature.
These local decriminalization initiatives accomplish several things:
- Lowering fines and keeping people out of jail by directly changing local laws
- Expanding and training our volunteer force, which will be used to elect pro-cannabis politicians in Nov 2018
- Drawing attention to cannabis law reform in the media and encouraging conversation about it
- Showing politicians that people support cannabis law reform
- Showing politicians that cannabis law reform supporters are a powerful political force
Our plan is to put cannabis decriminalization ordinances on the November 2018 ballot in dozens of cities and villages across Wisconsin. This will make cannabis law reform a powerful issue in the Governor's election and increase voter turnout among cannabis consumers. These small initiatives, when put together, form our path towards statewide legalization.
In order to accomplish this, we need our grassroots cannabis community - that's you! - to get involved! Our core team here at SE WI NORML can only do so much on our own, so we're looking for leaders to organize the communities in their cities to complete the initiatives in their hometowns.
- Write a $1 decriminalization ordinance specific to your city or village
- Give you valid petition forms
- Train you on everything you need to know to have a successful petition drive
- Help you find volunteers
- Assist you with any questions you may have
We need you to:
- Recruit a few friends to help collect signatures (how many depends on how big your city/village is)
- Find public events you can collect at (or you can do all door-to-door if your city/village is small, but events generally give the most signatures per hour)
- Put in the hours of work collecting signatures
- Keep your certified petition forms in a safe spot
- Keep us informed of your progress
If you would like more information on how you can organize a petition drive for direct legislation in your city or village, check out Wisconsin NORML's page about direct legislation in Wisconsin and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to contact us.
We already have people laying the groundwork for initiatives in Union Grove and Shorewood that we're going to start on once Racine finishes up, and we'd love to add your city to our list!
If you have any questions or comments about our initiatives, please don't hesitate to contact us!
Meet up at 3:30 at Gordon Park (1321 E Locust St, Milwaukee). We will have a couple guest speakers to get you energized, then we'll start marching at 4pm.
In past years, the Milwaukee Marijuana March has attracted thousands to speak out against marijuana prohibition. Let's make this year the biggest yet and send a powerful message in these times of change, that marijuana prohibition needs to end!
Bring signs, noise makers, and all of your friends! This will be a protest against the injustice of prohibition that will be heard all the way to Madison!
RSVP on Facebook
Introducing SE WI NORML's Decriminalization Initiatives
As you may know, the Wisconsin constitution does not allow state-wide ballot initiatives, which is how legalization was passed in Colorado, Washington, California, etc. However, Wisconsin law does allow ballot initiatives to change ordinances in cities and villages in the state.
In order to get an ordinance vote on the ballot, it is required to collect signatures equal to 15% of the number of people within that city or village who voted in the last governor's election, and those signatures must all be collected and turned in within 60 days.
SE WI NORML is targeting two local villages for new ordinances. We cannot legalize cannabis within just a village or city (the state police would arrest everyone who tried to sell or openly possession cannabis), so we're doing the most we possibly can: lowering the fines for possession (currently as much as $2000) to only $5!
At 6pm on January 31st, (Facebook event) SE WI NORML will be meeting at Closet Classics (1000 E North Ave, Milwaukee) to plan and discuss these initiatives.
Collecting Signatures (canvassing)
On February 4th (Facebook event), we'll start our decriminalization initiative in West Milwaukee, a village that only requires 187 signatures to force a ballot initiative. We plan to collect at least 250 signatures to ensure enough are considered valid (more on that below), and we hope that you'll help us make quick work of the signature collecting!
Meet us at 1pm on Feb 4 at West Milwaukee Park (4928 W Burnham St) if you would like to help with the initiative. We will train you on how to go door-to-door to collect petition signatures, give you all the materials you need, and then assign you an area within the 1 sq mile village to go canvass. If we get a couple dozen volunteers, we can finish West Milwaukee in just a couple hours.
In March, we will start a similar petition effort in Shorewood, which requires 1,055 signatures to force a ballot initiative. This will give us time to ensure that everything went smoothly with submitting the petition in West Milwaukee before we move on to a much larger village.
After we complete Shorewood, we will move on to more municipalities surrounding Milwaukee. We expect to expand our volunteer base as we go and we'll accomplish many things aside from significantly lowering the fines for cannabis possession: we will draw attention to cannabis legalization and medical cannabis, we will show the lawmakers that people are sick of cannabis prohibition, and we will show Wisconsin that the cannabis community is active and is a political force that must be respected.
To those who are concerned that this does not go far enough, know that this will go on in addition to lobbying to pass Wisconsin bills regarding medical cannabis, decriminalization, and full recreational legalization. Also know that these initiatives are just the first steps of a small but quickly growing organization, and that these initiatives and the victories they'll provide are necessary to fuel that growth and enable us to become a powerful force fighting to reform Wisconsin's draconian marijuana laws.Read more
On December 8th, 2016, Southeast Wisconsin NORML hosted a legalization celebration at Bremen Cafe in Milwaukee. Tons of people turned out to celebrate the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana in 8 states that happened on November 8th. This was a huge win for the fight against marijuana prohibition and the perfect time to celebrate with great music and conversation.
Thanks to our artists KJ, Miles Lamensky, Chalice in the Palace, Vladimir Gluten, Dela and Jesse Guten for coming out to rock out for the cause.