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Madison to Wisconsin: We're Doing Cannabis Laws Our Way

City officials recently forged ahead without state permission, passing an ordinance that decriminalizes possession and use of up to 28 grams of marijuana

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What can a city do on its own to change cannabis laws in a state where it remains illegal for recreational use? City leaders in Madison, Wisconsin, decided to find out this fall. And as it turns out, you can do quite a bit.

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Keep in mind that Madison is a city located in a state and a nation where possession of cannabis is illegal. And Wisconsin is particularly stringent.

The state allows only CBD products for medical use. According to marijuana law information maintained by cannabis advocacy group NORML, that state can arrest anyone for possessing any amount of weed. The first offense is a misdemeanor and carries a $1,000 fine. The second offense is a felony with a $10,000 maximum fine and up to 3.5 years of jail time.

City leaders in Madison wanted to ensure that didn’t happen to people within the city limits. So they went their own way with marijuana laws.

RELATED: Crossing The Border With Weed Can Mean Trouble -- The Michigan-Ohio Border, That Is


City law supersedes state law. 

The press has written many stories about cities and counties in cannabis legal states deciding not to allow sales within their jurisdictions. Madison also chose to go against the grain in Wisconsin, but in favor of cannabis use, not against it.

City leaders revised an existing ordinance that already allowed possession of cannabis in private homes and extended it into public spaces. The change decriminalizes public possession and consumption, with some exceptions. The protections extend only to those 18 and older.

Some, including the local police chief, complained the ordinance should only cover those 21 and older. However, Alderman Mike Verveer, the main sponsor of the ordinance, told the Wisconsin State Journal that he wanted to ensure the change covered University of Wisconsin students.

He also said when people reach 18, “If you can be drafted to defend our country and entrusted with the vote, you should be seen as an adult in all situations."

RELATED: The Feds Decree There Is No Legal Marijuana Use for Immigrants

Under the new law, people might be able to smoke weed in restaurants, bars.

Here are some of the provisions of the new law. They offer a glimpse into how far a city can go if leaders choose to do so.

  • Allows people to possess up to 28 ounces of cannabis

  • Allows people to possess cannabis products such as oils and edibles, as well as drug paraphernalia

  • Allows restaurant and bar owners to decide if they will allow patrons to use cannabis on an outdoor patio - but not inside, as cannabis remains banned anywhere tobacco products and e-cigarettes are also banned

There are some places you cannot possess or consume marijuana. They include within 1,000 feet of a school. Those caught doing so, even if it’s in a private residence, face a $1 citation and fees that add up to $62.26.

The changed law also prohibits possession on a school bus, in an operating vehicle, and for those under age 17. People also cannot use cannabis in public parks, as the state allows park governing boards to set their own rules for conduct within park borders.

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