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City Council To Vote on Pot-Possession Penalties

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Source: Columbia Missourian (MO)

Website: http://www.digmo.com/


The Columbia City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that would lessen the penalty for having small quantities of marijuana. A group seeking to decriminalize possesion of small amounts of marijuana gathered enough signatures on an initiative petition to ensure that their proposed measure will be voted on by the council. If the council does not pass the ordinance, it will be submitted to voters on April 8, City Manager Ray Beck said.


The proposed ordinance would direct all people charged with possessing 35 grams of marijuana or less to municipal court instead of state court, limit punishment for possession to small fines and ensure that patients for whom marijuana has been recommended by a physician suffer no punishment for obtaining, possessing or using marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia.


Anthony Johnson, a 25-year-old law student at MU and president of Mizzou American Civil Liberties Union, initiated the petition. He said he doubts the council will approve the ordinance, but he is optimistic about its long- term fate.


"I think it will be successful when the people vote on it," Johnson said. "People realize that this is a better policy for Columbia."


Sixth Ward Councilman John Coffman said the petition seems to be well-written.


"I'm leaning toward supporting it," Coffman said.


Although he said he's willing to look at it with an open mind, Third Ward Councilman Bob Hutton expressed concern about the ordinance's apparent conflict with state law concerning medical use of marijuana.


He also said he doesn't agree that the ordinance should be changed to protect students accused of possession from losing federal financial aid.

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