Springfield City Council Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Initiative, May Be Amended
Last night, the City Council of Springfield, MO voted 6-3 in favor of an initiative that would lower city penalties for possession of up to 35 grams of cannabis to a maximum $150 fine. This measure came about as part of a petitioning process by the group Show-Me Cannabis Regulation. After the group collected enough signatures from Springfield voters, the council had the option of either passing the legislation or putting it before voters in the November election.
This measure is similar to an ordinance passed in Columbia, MO in 2004, that received 61% of the vote. This initiative differs in that it adds automatic expungement of convictions for possession of up to 1 and 1/4 ounces of cannabis or cannabis paraphernalia two years after a plea of guilty or conviction. It also requires the council to appoint a “Citizens Committee” to review and monitor the implementation of the ordinance. These provisions have received criticism from Springfield’s city attorney who believes they are invalid. Show-Me Cannabis Regulation intends to dispute these claims in court and even if they are deemed invalid, the measure contained a severability clause which would allow them to be dropped without invalidating the whole ordinance.
The city council has the opportunity to amend its language and several members have signaled a desire to do so. If they are to amend the language they only have 30 days in which to do so. To what extent the measure will be changed before it is implemented remains unclear. Councilman Tommy Bieker stated that, “I will be voting in support with the intent of turning around and working out the amendment.”
His colleague, Councilman Jeff Seifried told press he supported passing the amendment “then gutting, the entire ordinance.”
NORML will keep you updated as this situation progresses. You can read more about initiatives that did advance to this fall’s ballot by visiting NORML’s 2012 Election Guide, Smoke the Vote.