Toughening Our Drug and Tobacco Paraphernalia Laws

I’m really proud of the work we’ve done – led by our city attorney, police department, health department and others across the community – in combating drug use in South Milwaukee.

In the past year, we’ve done it through education and outreach, perhaps through our Addiction Information Resource Fair, showings of “Chasing the Dragon,” or informational sessions by the police department, with more to come.

We’ve done it by increasing many amounts in our court deposit schedule – the amount of money lawbreakers may have to pay when they commit crimes (drug crimes and otherwise).

Now we are toughening our ordinances around drug and tobacco paraphernalia.

As we stated in the ordinance to create Section 24.01(E) of our code, given its initial passage by the South Milwaukee City Council last week …

WHEREAS,  in 2016, over 300 drug overdose deaths occurred in Milwaukee County.  It is determined by the Common Council that certain paraphernalia that is used to inhale or ingest potentially fatal controlled substances, such as heroin, should carry a higher forfeiture amount relative to paraphernalia used to ingest or inhale marijuana in an effort to deter and make more difficult the use of potentially fatal controlled substances;

WHEREAS, the Common Council of the City of South Milwaukee has determined that it is in the best interest of the City’s health, safety and welfare and morals to categorize certain drug paraphernalia offenses in terms of forfeiture amount;

WHEREAS, It is determined by the Common Council that the open display and availability for sale of instruments used for inhaling or ingesting controlled substances in places of business within the City suggests and encourages the illegal use of drugs and other controlled substances by the youth of this community; that to protect the health and safety and general welfare of the youth of this community, it is necessary that the regulations herein provided be enacted;

WHEREAS, Upon the recommendation of the Chief of Police, the Common Council having found and determined that creation of such an ordinance adopting certain State offenses as municipal ordinance violations is necessary to protect the public health, safety and welfare.

What are the specifics? The council voted to …

  • Adjust our deposit schedule to reflect higher “fines” for those caught with opioid paraphernalia ($1,308, up from $439) vs. cocaine paraphernalia ($565, up from $439) and marijuana paraphernalia (stays the same at $439). The opioid paraphernalia amount is an especially significant increase, in hopes of deterring people from using the drug as we, like many other communities, deal with this epidemic. This “categorized” approach to fines is pretty unique, and requested by our police department.
  • Outlaw the sale to consumers of drug paraphernalia, defined as “all equipment, products, and materials of any kind which are used, intended for use or designed for use in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, selling, distributing, delivering, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, concealing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance.”  This law would now make illegal the sale of items clearly not meant for tobacco use, including bongs and certain types of pipes.
  • Ban the sale and possession of tobacco paraphernalia to minors. We already ban sales of tobacco to kids; this adds products like rolling papers and pipes. We also moved to ban the sale and possession vapor smoking products pertaining to minors.

Final passage of these changes is expected at our next meeting, and I wholeheartedly support them. While combating drug use is more than just fine amounts, we have to be proactive in dealing with these issues legislatively, and we are. And I don’t want to stop here – we will always be looking for ways to make our community safer.


Filed under South Milwaukee

5 responses to “Toughening Our Drug and Tobacco Paraphernalia Laws

  1. Jacalyn Benka

    Great job! Thank you!

  2. Lisa

    You are raising the fines of opiate paraphernalia “in hopes of deterring people from using the drug”. I want to point out that people hooked on opiates spend tens of thousands on their drug annually. And that doesn’t deter them from using. Raising the fine amount is not going to deter them. Someone addicted to opiates is not going to slow down their drug use because a fine is increasing if they got caught. It is too help fund city resources. I just hate when officials say increase the fines is going to deter drug use. That doesn’t make sense. It has been shown in research that drug addicts have something psychologically changed within their brain. They view drugs as we view food, as an instinctual need. And just so it’s clear, this will make the already packed jails become more engorged with non violent offenders. I don’t agree with this. Drug addicts won’t be able to pay their fine and it will turn into a warrant. No one will bail them out and they will end up clogging up our justice system more than it already is. It’s not people committing violent crimes that are in our jails anymore. It’s people with drug addiction issues. We need to change our angle if we want to get a grip on this problem.

  3. SM Guy

    According to some people in our city, there is no reason to address this at all. They would rather stick their heads in the sand and pretend nothing is happening, such as those who have scrubbed certain social media sites of any mention that heroin overdoses happen in public places in South Milwaukee.

  4. Frank Millpond Gratje

    The problem is real. I urge the Mayor to look into what security cameras can do and not do. An open discussion on the limitations and costs of these cameras would be a find topic to have at a open citizen meeting. I believe there is a low cost unique solution that would not eliminate but put could a cap on the issue.

  5. Higher fines are not going to deter anyone from using heroin. The possibility of overdosing or dying doesn’t deter people. The possibility of going to jail or prison doesn’t deter people. Losing their children, and alienating their family doesn’t deter them. Losing a job and emptying a savings does not deter them. Why would you think a ridiculously high fine would? Please look at facts not react to feeling or opinions. And why is heroin paraphernalia so much worse than cocaine or marijuana? This is just a blatant attempt to “cash in” on what you describe as the biggest problem facing your community. As has already been mentioned by others, most of these fines will go unpaid, turn into warrants and put non-violent offenders into our already significantly overwhelmed criminal justice system. Does that save anyone money int he long run? it might shift the cost away from the city but it still affects the costs to the taxpayers of Milwaukee County. I implore you to skip this absurd idea and instead focus more on ways that will actually help address the issue in the community and support the families affected.

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