City of Berlin discusses legalizing recreational marijuana

BERLIN, Wis. (WLUK) — The City of Berlin is discussing legalizing recreational marijuana, even though the state doesn’t allow it in any form.

“As far as I know we’d be the first city in the country to do something like this,” Berlin city council member Joel Bruessel said.

Bruessel wants to legalize recreational marijuana use in Berlin and brought it to the agenda at the Committee of the Whole Tuesday night.

“We’ve been talking about ways to raise income for the city. We’ve got limitations from the state on what we can do tax-wise and other things, so I was looking for other options and this to me seemed like an obvious one,” Bruessel said.

The proposed ordinance written by Bruessel would allow people 21 and older to consume marijuana and have six mature plants. Berlin residents would also be able to possess 8 ounces of marijuana and 72 ounces of edibles.

City attorney Matthew Chier says it’s not as simple as just legalizing marijuana when it’s illegal in the state. He says the city would not be able to tax marijuana because it is illegal.

A city law already on the books treats marijuana possession under 25 grams as a civil infraction, not a criminal offense.

That law says it’s illegal to possess marijuana or drug paraphernalia. The first offense will result in a ticket. Since 2001 when the law went into effect, Berlin has had 98 citations for marijuana possession.

Berlin’s police chief, J.D. Lind, says passing this ordinance would not be ideal for the city.

“We’d be an island within the state and I don’t know that it’s even possible under state law, or federal law for that matter,” Lind said.

The committee voted to postpone talks until they learn what the state is doing.

Wisconsin Democratic lawmakers have proposed bills to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize possession. They haven’t survived the Republican-controlled Assembly or Senate, despite some GOP support.

Residents came out to voice their opinions.

“I support any sort of marijuana reform that comes along, but as far as the city goes, we can certainly remove the penalty for simple possession. It’s been done throughout the state,” one resident said.

Another resident believes the city has more pressing issues.

“Does the council not have enough issues of high importance here to take care of that they have to address to create more enforcement problems within the taxpayers city here?”

Berlin’s next city council meeting is Nov. 12. There’s no telling when they’ll pick up discussion on legalizing marijuana in the city

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