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.
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.
Residents of Springfield, Missouri will likely be voting on a marijuana decriminalization measure this fall. Initiative proponents, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, submitted their final round of signatures to the city clerk in the past week and received word yesterday that they have met the required threshold of signatures for qualification. On Thursday afternoon, the Springfield City Clerk confirmed the petition has officially qualified with at least 2,132 certified signatures.
The petition now moves to the City Council, which has the opportunity to enact the measure into law as written or place it before voters in Springfield this November. The initiative aims to lower the penalty for possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana, currently a misdemeanor punishable by arrest, to a ticket with a maximum fine of $150.
NORML will keep you updated as this initiative progresses. For information on other Election 2012 reform efforts, check out NORML’s voter guide, Smoke the Vote.
Florida’s Drug-Testing of the Poor Proves a Failure, but Some States Still Want to Follow their ExampleFebruary 18, 2012
By Kellen Russoniello, George Washington University Law student and NORML Legal Intern
The recent push for implementing drug testing for potential welfare recipients across several states has revealed at least two things: 1. The policy is not economically sound; and 2. It really brings out the hypocrisy in some elected officials.
Last summer, Florida implemented a law requiring all welfare applicants to submit to a mandatory drug test before receiving any benefits (Applicants had to pay the $30 for the test themselves, only to be reimbursed later if they passed. For more information, see this NORML blog post.). Not surprisingly, the program was brought to a quick halt. Back in October of 2011, a federal judge ruled that the Florida drug testing law was unconstitutional.
Further, in the few months that the program was up and running, it was shown that only 2% of welfare applicants tested positive for drugs. About 9% of the general population reports using drugs in the past month. So much for Governor Rick Scott’s theory that the poor use drugs more often than the rest of the populace.
Even more striking is the amount of money that Florida lost from this poorly designed policy. The Tampa Bay Online estimated that $3,400 to $8,200 in savings would be recognized every month from drug testing welfare applicants. As it turns out, the program is estimated to have cost Florida over $200,000. From any perspective, this policy can be regarded as a failure.
Despite the lessons that can be learned from Florida’s debacle, several states are still considering implementing programs to subject their impoverished population to drug tests. The Huffington Post reported that twelve states attempted passing legislation in 2011 that would require drug tests for welfare applicants. Florida, Missouri, and Arizona were the only three that succeeded. However, Pennsylvania has just begun a pilot program in Schuylkill County that subjects certain applicants to drug tests. By tailoring their laws to apply only to applicants that have aroused reasonable suspicion, these states are hoping to avoid constitutional problems like those that ultimately invalidated the Florida law and a similar Michigan law in 2000 (which was affirmed in 2003). Several states have also tried to drug test those who seek unemployment benefits, state employees, and private sector employees, including the passage of an Indiana law that requires drug testing for those in a state job-training program.
When pressed, legislators that support this policy try to justify their position by claiming that the taxpayers should not subsidize drug addiction. But taxpayers pay for much more than just welfare. Some of their money goes towards paying their legislators’ salaries. Wouldn’t this same rationale justify drug testing legislators? This has been the tactic of many Democratic state legislators to thwart Republican efforts to test welfare applicants. In fact, a Republican State representative in the Indiana General Assembly recently pulled a bill after another representative amended it to include drug testing for legislators. The bill was reintroduced and passed by the Indiana General Assembly the following week, which included a section requiring legislators to submit to random drug tests. Missouri and Tennessee currently have bills that would require legislators to submit to drug tests. These were introduced in reaction to a slew of bills aimed at requiring drug tests on different areas of the population. It seems that the legislators who want to drug test the poor aren’t really convinced of the merits of the program when applied to themselves.
Hopefully, state politicians will come to their senses as knowledge about the failure of Florida’s policy becomes more well-known. But given this country’s track record on drug policy, I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath.
To see a hilarious summary of Florida’s drug-test-the-poor policy, watch this Daily Show clip, which includes Florida State Representative Scott Plakon’s and Governor Rick Scott’s reactions to being asked to take a drug test.
The NORML Board of Directors officially endorsed a cannabis legalization initiative at the recently concluded Annual Meeting that has qualified for the November ballot in the state of Washington.
For the next nine months national NORML and its dozen in-state chapters will provide logistical, strategic, communications and fundraising support for Initiative 502, whose co-petitioner is NORML Advisory Board member and best-selling author/TV host Rick Steves.
NORML’s staff envisages two more marijuana-related reform initiatives likely qualifying for this year’s fall ballot:
*Citizens in Colorado will likely have the opportunity to vote for a binding voter initiative that will legalize cannabis for responsible adult use, cultivation and sales.
*Citizens in Massachusetts too will likely get to send a strong reform message to the federal government this fall when they vote in a binding voter initiative that will legalize the use of cannabis for qualified patients for medical use and allow regulated retail sales.
Also, cannabis law reform advocates in numerous states are trying to join the states listed above in qualifying reform-minded initiatives on their state ballots too. Those states are:
*Michigan (Legalization initiative)
*Missouri (Legalization initiative)
*Montana (Legalization initiative)
*Nebraska (Legalization initiative)
It should be abundantly clear by now to federal legislators and the executive branch that while they unwisely continue to support a failed public policy like Cannabis Prohibition–when over 50% of the public now support long overdue cannabis law reforms–citizens (and an increasing number of elected policymakers) at the state level will continue to steadily increase political pressure on the federal government to capitulate on Cannabis Prohibition and embrace demonstrably more free market and Constitutional-friendly alternative public policies that actually benefit citizens and governments, and in turn, public health and safety too.
This upcoming election season will once again confirm that this political trend in cannabis law reform is long-standing, sustainable and poised for multiple political victories at the state level in the short years to come.
Efforts are currently underway to put marijuana legalization on the ballot in Missouri next year. Missouri NORML and Show-me Cannabis Regulation are working together to acquire the number of signatures required to put a Constitutional amendment proposal before Missouri voters in November 2012. Missouri now joins several other states (including California, Washington, and Colorado) that are looking to put the issue of cannabis legalization before voters next election.
If you live in Missouri, and want to get involved, MO NORML and Show-me Cannabis Regulation will be holding a strategy meeting this Saturday, November 19th. For more information see the message below from Dan Viets, Missouri NORML Coordinator.
Dear Friends and Supporters of Missouri NORML:
Missouri NORML in conjunction with Show-Me Cannabis Regulation is holding a special meeting next Saturday, November 19, 2011 from noon to 6:00 p.m. at the Arts & Science building at the University of Missouri here in Columbia. this event will be a kickoff for the campaign to place marijuana legalization on the Missouri ballot in November, 2012.
We will be brainstorming ideas for how to move this campaign forward effectively and efficiently. We will be sharing ideas with our fellow activists from the state of Missouri. We will be talking with folks who have experience in similar campaigns to get their advice on how we can gather the signatures we need as quickly as possible.
SMCR has chosen to proceed with a Constitutional amendment proposal. This means we will need to gather nearly 150,000 signatures on petitions to place this issue on the ballot before next May. We will need the help of every one of our supporters to make this happen.
Following the meeting Saturday afternoon, we will hold a Dinner/Party/Fundraising event at one of Columbia’s finest restaurants. We ask everyone who attends to please bring something, large or small, which can be auctioned to help us raise funds for the campaign.
Please join us and become part of this historic effort to end the terrible injustice of cannabis prohibition in Missouri. For more information about the proposed initiative, go to www.showmecannabis.org. There is a football game in Columbia next Saturday so hotel and motel rooms will be in short supply. If you plan to stay in Columbia, you should probably search for a room immediately. You may need to look at accommodations in towns nearby since the hotels here may be full.
Dan Viets, Missouri NORML Coordinator
You can see coverage of the proposal on Missouri’s local FOX affiliate here.