Pubdate: Tue, 06 May 2014
Source: Springfield News-Leader (MO)
Copyright: 2014 The Springfield News-Leader


Springfield City Council members believed that they could work around
the democratic process because they knew what was best for the city.

That arrogance has cost nearly a quarter-million dollars.

The city agreed to pay $225,000 to a group of marijuana activists in a
settlement City Attorney Dan Wichmer called "in the best interest of
all parties." In exchange for the payment, most of which will go to
the plaintiffs' lawyer, petition sponsors Maranda Reynolds of
Springfield, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation and American Victory
Coalition will drop their lawsuit against the city.

The suit sought to force a public vote on a 2012 initiative petition,
which would have removed the possibility of jail time for first-or
second-time offenders caught with 35 grams of marijuana -- about
enough to fill a sandwich bag.

Enough legal signatures had been gathered to send the proposal to a
vote in November, something Council members fretted would cost too
much -- at about $180,000. Considering the settlement and legal costs,
that now sounds like a real bargain.

Instead, the City Council voted to approve the bill as written without
sending it to a public vote, only to repeal it in its entirety a few
weeks later.

Wichmer had insisted at the time that the move was technically legal.
The plaintiffs insisted that it was an illegal maneuver to usurp the
rights of the petitioners.

No matter how you feel about marijuana -- and it is obvious that some
of the council members felt very strongly against it -- there is
little question that the legal move was intended to do just that.

We had initially called on the City Council to allow the proposal to
go to the voters, who we felt confident would reject it.

After the Council passed the initiative, with the obvious intent to
gut it, we called on the members to set aside their own opposition to
marijuana and respect the intent of the people who signed the
petition. Amending it so it could pass legal muster and give law
enforcement the tools it needs would have been a fair move, but that
was not the Council's ultimate choice.

Finally, we encouraged Council to compromise by passing its own

Some Council members were concerned that such a law would signal that
it approves of smoking marijuana.

Instead, the message sent is that Council does not respect the
petition process - or the voters.
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