Pubdate: Fri, 10 Sept 1999
Source: Isthmus (WI)
Author: Eric Schulenburg
Note: Subjectline by MAP


I am a public defender, returning to the Madison office after about
five years in the Baraboo office. The marijuana enforcement trend
about which Bill Lueders reported is both relentless and forever
("Reefer Madness," 7/30/99).

It is relentless because of the effect it has on people who are, more
often than not, doing nothing else wrong. At least half the time, the
only offense is having paraphernalia, usually a small pipe or plastic
tube, discovered by a law enforcement officer making a traffic stop
and casually asking, "Mind if I search your ear?" Consent is almost
always given, and the booty discovered. A conviction means a monetary
fine and, much worse, a minimum six-month loss of driving privileges.

Our clients often drive anyway, and they sink into the "driving after
revocation" morass from which they never emerge again with a license.
It is difficult for me to understand how a person using marijuana in
private, with no public consequences, is a problem for me. But I guess
I don't see the big picture.

It is "forever" because the Legislature will never go back. This is
the same group of people who have passed truth in sentencing, a
nightmare that will hit in January. Eventually, we can hope for a
prison in every county. In fact, I have heard that there is
legislation now being considered that would make it a felony to be a
Wisconsin resident and not have a felony on your record. (Legislators,
judges and prosecutors will be exempted from those

So it is all right to lament the enormous costs involved with the
apprehension, prosecution and defense of those charged with the
virtual non-offense of marijuana and paraphernalia possession, but it
ain't gonna change.

Eric Schulenburg
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MAP posted-by: Derek Rea