By John Payne
Last Tuesday, Springfield City Councilwoman Jan Fisk, filed an ordinance proposal that would allow the Missouri National Guard to help fight the drug war in Springfield. Although the proposal, which you can read here, allows the National Guard to assist in the enforcement of drug laws generally, cannabis is the only drug mentioned specifically.
Many readers will remember that the Springfield City Council pulled a fast one on us and their citizens in the fall of 2012 when they passed an ordinance to reduce penalties on cannabis possession in the city simply to repeal it at their next meeting as part of a ruse to keep it off the ballot. We had assisted local reform advocates in gathering signatures to put the measure before the council and --- we thought --- the voters of Springfield. (The council's dirty trick eventually prompted us to sue them, and that lawsuit is ongoing with court ordered mediation scheduled for March.)
During the debate over the local decriminalization ordinance, many council members who opposed the reform claimed that enforcing cannabis laws was not a top priority for the Springfield Police Department. But if enforcing cannabis laws is not a high priority, it is puzzling that the city feels compelled to call in the National Guard to wage a literal war on cannabis.
Perhaps this proposal is motivated more by the $24 million in assets that the Missouri National Guard Counter Drug Task Force helped seize last year than any actual law enforcement goal. After all, if the National Guard brings in more forfeiture dollars in Springfield, the Springfield Police Department will get to keep a large percentage of the proceeds under federal forfeiture statutes.
This proposal misdirects law enforcement priorities away from property and violent crimes towards cannabis offenses and loosens public oversight on law enforcement. If you live in the Springfield area, I strongly urge you to speak out about this proposal at the Springfield City Council meeting tonight, January 13, at 6:30 p.m. Council meetings are held at the Busch Municipal Building at 840 Boonville Avenue, 65802.
Springfield NORML is organizing people to attend and speak at this Facebook event page. I hope many of you can make it and hold our elected officials accountable to the will of the people!