Pubdate: Tue, 20 Aug 2002
Source: Capital Times, The  (WI)
Copyright: 2002 The Capital Times
Author: Judith Davidoff


Ald. Judy Olson wants users of medical marijuana to be able to grow their 
own plants within the city limits.

"This gives people a source of marijuana," said Olson, who plans to 
introduce the proposal to the City Council. "They don't have to interact 
with the black market to acquire it."

Under current city law, it's a crime to obtain - but not use - marijuana in 

Olson said she is still working out the details of the proposal with 
members of the Progressive Dane Drug Policy Task Force, which is presenting 
the recommendations from its year-and-a-half-long study of local drug 
policy at a news conference this afternoon.

In addition to backing Olson's medical marijuana proposal, the Progressive 
Dane task force is also recommending that city police officers use their 
discretion under city law to issue citations for simple marijuana use, 
rather than press criminal charges as allowed under state law.

Since 1977, Section 23.20 of the Madison General Ordinances has prescribed 
that casual possession of marijuana is not a crime and that no public 
record be made of any arrests or violations of the ordinance.

The task force is also calling for local law enforcement officials to be 
more thoroughly educated on drug laws and their implications.

"A lot of people who are responsible for passing laws regarding drug policy 
and enforcing them weren't aware of specific laws and their ramifications," 
said Stephanie Rearick, chair of the task force.

Rearick said some of the officials the task force met with over the last 
year, for instance, were not aware that students with drug conviction 
records could be denied federal financial aid.

Olson said individuals with drug convictions can also be denied federal 
housing assistance.

The bottom line, said Rearick, is that the nation's misdirected war on 
drugs has failed to address the problem of rampant drug use while filling 
prisons with nonviolent offenders and trampling on civil liberties.

"It is painfully apparent that we need to redirect our efforts toward 
finding solutions that work," she said.

But Rearick added that Madison, despite its shortcomings, still had a more 
progressive drug policy than most cities.

"Madison is doing better than most places in the country," she said. "If we 
work together and pull in all the different resources, we can and come up 
with a deliberate plan as to what we'd like our city drug policy to be. 
We'd be all that much more ahead."

Rearick said the purpose of today's news conference was to kick-start a 
public discussion on local drug policy as a first step toward developing a 
comprehensive approach to drug use and abuse.

The task force supports the City Council's creation of a city committee to 
study drug policy enforcement, she said, but the panel's ongoing work 
should not be used as an excuse to delay action on more immediate steps.

The task force recommends that:

Addicts undergoing methadone treatment have access to this treatment while 
incarcerated in the Dane County jail.

Drug-related property forfeitures be phased out.

Dane County partner with the city in developing a comprehensive hard drugs 

Measures designed to alleviate poverty and create more affordable housing 
options be supported as an alternative to the city's defunct loitering 

"Harm reduction" programs, such as needle exchanges, drug education for 
young people and pill testing at raves, should be implemented.

Overdose victims who call 911 for help will not face prosecution based on 
the call.
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