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Committee recommends decriminalizing marijuana possession

Superior's Public Safety Committee is recommending the City Council adopt an ordinance that takes criminal charges off the table for people caught with 25 grams or less of marijuana.

The ordinance makes such possession cases a city violation subject to fines ranging from $100 to $500, plus court costs.

While the city had considering modeling its ordinance based on a strict one in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, City Attorney Frog Prell said District Attorney Mark Fruehauf preferred giving his office and police officers more discretion in determining how to charge an offense.

How officers determine how to charge an individual on any number of offenses is typically based on their exposure to an individual and the nature of the offense, Police Chief Nick Alexander said. He said officers have access to information about every arrest that helps guide charging decisions.

After one or two offenses, Alexander said, officers are inclined to issue state charges rather than an ordinance violation and refer the matter to the District Attorney's Office.

The flexibility in the ordinance also gives the district attorney an option to reduce a charge to an ordinance violation when they believe a criminal charge is too harsh for the circumstances, Alexander said.

The City Council considers the ordinance change during its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 2 in the Government Center.