Looks like the people of Springfield have elected some city council members that may actually have the citizens best interests at heart. Revamping the city ordinance targeted at marijuana possession is before the city council in Springfield Missouri right now. It was originally going to be brought before the general public to vote on the repeal/modification of the law, but it appears that the city council has decided to take matters into their own hands to revamp the marijuana possession law to save the public the cost of the $180,000 vote on the matter.
There are several proposals to modify the ordinance. Here is the article in the Independence Examiner.
With the general election a mere six weeks away, marijuana law reform is receiving more public attention than any other time in recent history. Springfield, Missouri,
is about to be one of the first to take those steps. Pro-marijuana
advocates worked tirelessly to gain enough signatures to ensure a spot
on the November 6 ballot to decriminalize possession of small amounts of
the non-lethal yet prohibited plant. Under the new ordinance,
possession of 35 grams or less of pot will be punishable by a fine, as
opposed to jail time.
The Springfield city council approved the measure to avoid enabling
voters to cast ballots in support of the legislation, by their own
admission. According to KY3.com, many
council members admit they voted to yes on the provisions to save
money. Voting no could have sent the issue to the voters.
"A vote, as just indicated, would cost somewhere in the
neighborhood of $180,000. I think we can by far use that money in a
better way," said Mayor Bob Stephens.
One may wonder what motivation the Springfield council members would
have to take control away from the city's citizens, preventing them from
casting their votes on the measure. "It just seems to me our responsibility is to say this thing is so
badly crafted, and so bad an ordinance, that we will assume
responsibility and do everything we can to kill it some way," said
Councilman John Rush. "I am going to support passing and then gutting the entire ordinance," said Councilman Jeff Seifried. Although hardly politically-honorable, not all council members wish
to circumvent the will of the people. Examiner.com contacted Councilman
Doug Burlison, who agreed to answer a few vital questions.
How would you characterize your opinion on this ordinance and its potential efficacy for the City of Springfield?
Burlison: "I feel that this ordinance would be a
positive for Springfield, especially for our citizens, and for our local
justice system. Local prosecutors and law enforcement brass are not
supportive of this, I think mainly due to this being a departure from
long-standing policies. Regardless of that, however, I they they would
also see a benefit if they observed the intent of this ordinance.
Community relations with citizens will improve, and I believe that
enforcement costs will decrease, as well as the fear factor that
citizens who are in possession of a simple plant will face when
confronted by law enforcement."
If the City Council is successful in repealing this ordinance, what impact will it have in the months leading up to the election?
Burlison: "If this ordinance gets repealed tomorrow night, I
believe it will possibly impact November and the following municipal
elections in April of next year. A repeal will anger voters typically
more supportive of Obama, and I would guess this will motivate some
folks to show up at the polls that normally wouldn't. I personally
realize that Obama is just as unfriendly to the marijuana issue as
Romney, but the President's supporters believe otherwise. Then of
course, there's the wild card Gov. Gary Johnson, who advocates total
legalization . . . and it's tough to gauge what effect he'll have in
November, especially if he can keep from being shut out of the debates.
Of course, the following municipal election will have some extra
importance for a lot of people, should this ordinance get repealed."
Show-Me Cannabis Regulation unsuccessfully attempted to
gather enough statewide signatures to qualify for a ballot initiative to
implement a medical marijuana program in Missouri. Would you have
supported such an initiative?
Burlison: "I supported Show Me Cannabis Regulation's
petition effort, and will do so again if the opportunity presents
itself. That initiative would have, and possibly will, create one of
the most hemp-friendly places on the planet . . . here in Missouri. The
economic potential of a measure like that would be tremendous positive
for any region that would respect the natural law, and end this type of
The Springfield City Council is expected to make a final decision
tonight on the ordinance. The agenda for tonight's vote can be read here. During the August 24 primary city council meeting to address the ordinance, nineteen citizens stood and spoke in support of the decriminalization ordinance. Two people opposed it.
So, what are the options for the Springfield city council tonight?
From the Ozarks First website:
"Here's how the proposed amendments stack up:
1. Four Council members -- Jerry Compton, Jan Fisk, Jeff Seifried and John Rush -- are sponsoring a total repeal.
2. Mayor Bob Stephens is sponsoring an amendment that removes two
provisions City Attorney Dan Wichmer has determined are clearly illegal:
a requirement that City Council appoint a citizen oversight committee
and expungement. This amendment also suggests increasing the fine for
such possession from $150 to $450.
3. Mayor Stephens is also sponsoring an amendment that eliminates the
two clearly illegal provisions, but leaves the fine at $150.
4. Councilman Doug Burlison, who has supported the initiative since
its inception, offers an amendment that eliminates the oversight
committee requirement. He resists removing an expungement provision
until an opinion from the attorney general's office is available."
What this means for Missouri's ability to evolve one city's marijuana laws to catch up with medical, economic, and scientific reality remains
to be seen. It is important to note that Missouri used to be the chief
agricultural center of industrial hemp. The farmland is ideal for
cannabis cultivation. And the nation's attentions are on any form of
marijuana law reform.
With the state of Missouri steeped in marijuana history, voters
across the state will be watching to see what Springfield's elected
leaders do... and they - and especially Springfield residents - will no
doubt remember when it comes time for their re-elections in April 2013.