RACINE — Now that the forfeiture amount for marijuana possession citations has been set to $75 by the City Council, the directive proposed by Alderman John Tate II of the 3rd District is in place, with some changes.
When Tate first proposed the directive ordering Racine Police Chief Art Howell to issue citations — rather than criminal charge recommendations — for all first possession offenses of 25 grams or less, he wanted to set the forfeiture for those citations at $1 plus court costs.
Twenty-five grams is the limit for possession that is considered for personal use, not for redistribution.
After a lengthy debate and discussion, the council reached a compromise last December when it decided to set a range for the forfeiture from $1 to $75.
When the ordinance setting that forfeiture was brought to the Public Safety and Licensing Committee last month, City Attorney Scott Letteney explained that then-Municipal Judge Rebecca Mason had set the bond schedule at $75, which is what an officer would write on the citations and what people would pay, plus court costs, if they decided not to appear in court.
The range would give the judge the option to lower the forfeiture if the defendant appeared in court and made a case to the judge that it should be lowered.
Some on the committee took issue with the range. During the discussion on Wednesday, Alderman Carrie Glenn of the 10th District said she Googled how much 25 grams of marijuana cost and her search results said it could range from $200 to $350. Based on that, other members of the committee said they weren’t comfortable with some people only paying a $1 forfeiture.
“If people can afford to buy a $200 bag of weed that is illegal they can afford to pay a $75 fine,” said Alderman Steve Smetana of the 5th District.
The committee voted to amend the ordinance to set the forfeiture to $75 with court costs.
When the ordinance was brought before the Common Council on Wednesday, Tate voiced his frustration with the change.
“There are some people that are not interested in compromise,” said Tate. “Unfortunately here we are, discussing it again.”
A motion to amend the ordinance to include the range from $1 to $75 failed, 8-5, with aldermen Tate, Mollie Jones, Tracey Larrin, Mary Land and Jason Meekma voting in favor of the range.
Aldermen Jeff Coe, Steve Smetana, Sandy Weidner, Maurice Horton, Q.A. Shakoor, Terry McCarthy, Carrie Glenn and Henry Perez voted against the range.
In the final vote to instate the $75 forfeiture, only aldermen Jones and Meekma voted in opposition. Tate said he voted for the $75 forfeiture because it was better than the forfeiture that was in place before the vote, which was $1,000.