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.
Who Can Sign/What’s A Valid Signature?
Essentially the person must be a Milwaukee resident who is eligible (but not necessarily registered) to vote (Please make sure the signer meets these criteria *before* signing):
- Must be at least 18 years of age
- Must live within the city or village the petition is for (West Milwaukee or Shorewood)
- Must print name and address legibly!
- Must not be currently serving a felony sentence (jail/prison/probation/parole); felons who are no longer on probation/parole can sign
- Must have signed within 60 days prior to the submission of the petition
Who Can Collect Signatures?
To collect signatures (“circulate the petition” in legal terms) the circulator:
- Must be at least 18 years of age
- Must be a US citizen
- Must not be currently serving a felony sentence (jail/prison/probation/parole); felons who are no longer on probation/parole can collect signatures.
West Milwaukee ordinance text:
Sec 58-13 – Possession of marijuana
(a) Possession of marijuana. No person may possess marijuana unless the marijuana was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a valid prescription or order of a practitioner while acting in the course of his or her professional practice or except as authorized by ch. 961, Wis. Stats.
(b) Penalty. The penalty for violation of this section is no more than $5.
Shorewood’s ordinance will modify its existing cannabis ordinance, which currently uses Shorewood’s generic penalty of anywhere from $10 – $2000. The Shorewood ordinance will add to Section 409-15 (A) (2) by adding a new section:
Section 409-15 (A) (2) (a) Penalty. The penalty for violation of this section is no more than $5