Rock County Board lowers fines for cannabis possession to $1

Rock County lowers fine for possession of Cannabis to $1, other penalties remain

BELOIT, Wis. – The Rock County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to lower fines for possession of cannabis to just one dollar late last week.

Previously, fines ranged from $150 to $500, depending on offense.

The change will only apply to those punished by Sheriff’s deputies, as local jurisdictions have yet to adopt similar ordinances. Still, county board members say it’s a step in the right direction.

“In 2018, the county put out a referendum on marijuana legalization, which passed with 70 percent of country residents voting in favor of that,” said Jacob Taylor, supervisor of the county’s 16th district and creator of the ordinance. “Frankly, I think it just says that we’re listening to voters.”

The ordinance does not decriminalize marijuana, however.

“If a county sheriff pulls you over and you have cannabis in your car, you might get that one dollar ticket, but you’re still going to have a record,” Taylor said.

Marijuana possession along the state line has become a hot topic since the state of Illinois began selling marijuana for recreational use on January first.

“It really wrinkles me the wrong way when I think of the fact that somebody who was arrested north or south of a certain line, or east or west of a certain street are going to have radically different outcomes that could shape the rest of their lives,” said defense attorney Tom Grieve.

Grieve, whose firm has 13 attorneys practicing throughout the state, has fought marijuana related charges for his clients for years.

“We’ve represented any number of individuals charged across the state in both municipal as well as county or state court in possession matters,” Grieve said.

Grieve says Rock County’s decision to lower the fine could make a difference in some cases.

“It’s impossible to make light of the dollar amounts, because if you’re out there making ten bucks an hour, or if you’re a single mom or something like that, knocking 200 dollars off a fine is real math,” he said.

However, he notes that the criminal charges associated with fines, even small fines, could have lasting impacts for decades to come. In addition, he notes that more areas adopting different laws or policies could result in disparate enforcement of existing laws.

“Unless or until there is some sort of normalization across the state on this is what it’s going to be, there’s going to be patchwork enforcement,” he said.

Taylor says municipalities in Rock County, like the cities of Janesville and Beloit, could potentially follow suit in lowering fines for possession.