Perhaps it’s best to say what this pot proposal is not.
It’s not a legalization of marijuana.
It’s not going to change what already happens to most people who are arrested on a charge of simple marijuana possession.
What it is going to do is simplify the work of Janesville police officers, said Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore.
The ordinance does not define what amount of marijuana would be an ordinance violation and what amount would be a crime.
Moore said it’s up to the arresting officer to decide, as officers now decide whether a disorderly conduct offense should be an ordinance violation or a criminal misdemeanor.
Possession of a large amount of marijuana would still be arrested as a crime, possession with intent to deliver marijuana, a felony, Moore said.
The penalty for an ordinance violation would be $50 to $500, plus costs of prosecution, or if the fine isn’t paid, up to 90 days in jail.
The ordinance also requires police to seize the marijuana.
As for paraphernalia, materials used for injecting illicit drugs would still be illegal.
What happens now is officers arrest possessors of marijuana or paraphernalia on criminal charges that are referred to the Rock County District Attorney’s Office for a charging decision.
District Attorney David O’Leary does not issue criminal charges on most of these arrests. Instead, he makes them county ordinance violations, similar to the proposed city ordinance violation, Moore said.
Now, officers must take these suspects to either the police department or Rock County Sheriff’s Office for processing.
Under the proposed ordinance, “officers will be able to issue a citation in the field, much like a traffic citation, allowing officers to remain in their patrol areas and better meet the needs of the community,” Moore wrote.
Whether a county or city ordinance violation, the citation is not a crime, so an offender will not have a criminal record. However, Janesville records these non-criminal offenses in the state’s online court records system, popularly known as CCAP, where anyone can see them, Moore said.
Still, an employer might see an ordinance violation as more favorable than a crime when someone applies for a job, the memo notes.
Moore said he discussed the idea with O’Leary, who agreed it’s a good idea.
The ordinance has the potential to affect many. Janesville police arrested people 295 times last year for possession of drug paraphernalia and 171 times for possession of marijuana, Moore said.
Moore rejected the idea the ordinance sends the wrong message.
“It’s just a process issue, an efficiency issue, and really the outcome is the same,” Moore said, because as mentioned above, most simple possession cases now become county ordinance violations.
Moore said officers are encouraged to submit ideas to improve policing, and he credited Officer Shaun Mahaffey and Sgt. Aaron Dammen for this idea.