Janesville proposes ordinance to fine people caught with marijuana

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JANESVILLE, Wis. -Under a proposed ordinance, people in Janesville might not be arrested if they have pot.

Police Chief David Moore said an officer and sergeant suggested the idea to make the Janesville Police Department more efficient.

“Our officers spend a lot of time out in the field with marijuana arrests and paraphernalia arrests and, because it is a crime, they need to be booked either at the Police Department here or the Rock County Sheriff’s Office,” Moore said. “That probably takes about an hour to take these individuals into custody, for the officers to leave the field and go to the department.”

Last year, the Police Department made 171 arrests for possession of marijuana and 295 arrests for possession of drug paraphernalia, according to Moore.

He said the Rock County district attorney normally does not file charges for those arrests. Instead, he issues county ordinance violations. The proposed ordinance in Janesville would be similar to the county’s ordinance, Moore said.

“The end result is the same. It’s just an efficiency in which we can save officers’ time,” he said.

The Janesville City Attorney’s Office said Rock County and the town of Beloit have similar ordinances.

The proposed language states the penalty will be between $50 and $500. Moore said the fine would run about $250. Once the officer issues the citation, both the person pulled over and the officer can be on their way, as when an officer issues someone a traffic ticket.

“We ask a lot of our officers and, many times, many evenings, there are calls stacked up, and so citizens have to wait to see a police officer,” he said. “We’d be able to shorten that up. Our officers would be able to respond to those calls for service faster.”

Even though Moore believes the ordinance would make his department more efficient, he recognizes people have differing views on marijuana laws.

“It sounds like it’s a much more convenient way to go about things for everyone involved,” said Nathaniel Watson, who lives in Janesville. “It’ll be a lot less work for the police officers, and people will be able to go about their days. It’s not like it’s a violent crime.”

Others, though, think police need to do more for drug addicts, than have them pay.

“It’s just going to put more stresses on them that causes them to go out and seek more drugs,” said Jeremy Brueggeman, a former Janesville resident. “And as they seek more drugs, the police are on the beat more, so they can offer more tickets.”

A public hearing on the proposed ordinance is scheduled for the next Janesville City Council meeting on June 25.