By John Payne
As you probably recall, last summer we helped activists in Springfield gather signatures to put an initiative petition before the Springfield City Council that reduced penalties on possession of less than 35 grams of cannabis. The council was supposed to have two options: Either vote for the measure and make it law, or vote against it and send it to the city's voters in November. Instead, the council invented a third option: Vote for the measure, simply to repeal it at their next meeting for the express purpose of keeping the voters from having their say.
It has been a long time since I have updated you about this issue, but that is not because we gave up -- quite the opposite. Soon after the council repealed the ordinance, we began searching for a law firm to represent the activists in Springfield -- including Show-Me Cannabis Regulation board member Maranda Reynolds and tireless SMCR volunteers Trish and Daryl Bertrand -- whose rights the council had violated. Since then, we have worked behind the scenes with those attorneys to either find an acceptable compromise with the Springfield City Council, or, if a compromise cannot be found, help the local activists sue the City in federal court.
On Monday, the council held a public hearing on a revised version of the ordinance that they adopted and repealed last fall. Seven people spoke in favor of the proposal, including a doctor, three lawyers, and two people who work in drug treatment. No one spoke against it. The local media coveredthe meetingextensively, and you can also view the entire proceeding online at Springfield's City View (discussion of this issue starts at roughly the 25:30 mark).
The council will be voting on the idea in two weeks, and I believe they want to reach a compromise that will spare all parties the time and expense of a lawsuit. However, they are also extremely reluctant to lead on this issue, so they want to punt and place it on the ballot during a special election this August. Turnout at special elections is extremely low, and a large chunk of Springfield's student population would still be out of town for the summer, making the proposed ballot a particularly poor representation of all Springfield voters.
If you live in Springfield, please write your City Council members now using our advocacy page and urge them to pass the compromise proposal before them, instead of putting it up for a vote at a low-turnout election!
No matter where you reside, please contribute to help us pay the legal fees for these devoted Springfield activists. The American Victory Coalition, our primary institutional supporter, has footed most of the (substantial) legal bill thus far, but we need your financial support to finally bring these negotiations to an agreeable conclusion. Contribute now!