Pubdate: Sun, 04 Oct 2015
Source: Columbia Missourian (MO)
Copyright: 2015 Columbia Missourian
Author: Anadil Iftekhar


COLUMBIA - Initiative petitions have begun circulating that would 
revive a proposal for the decriminalization of growing up to six 
marijuana plants in Columbia.

The petition would limit cultivation to a person's home in locked 
area indoors inaccessible to children. It would make cultivation a 
municipal offense with a fine of $250 or community service or 
counseling. The petition also states that medical marijuana may be 
obtained, possessed and cultivated by seriously ill patients.

Under the proposal, cultivation and/or possession of up to six or 
fewer plants would not result in arrest, loss of driver's license, 
detention, incarceration or require the posting of a bond. Punishment 
would be limited to a city summons and a fine of up to $250. In 2004, 
62 percent of Columbia voters approved an ordinance that made 
posession of up to 35 grams of marijuana a municipal offense with a 
fine of no more than $250.

Under state law, growing marijuana is a felony punishable by five to 
15 years in prison.

The Mid-Missouri chapter of the National Organization for the Reform 
of Marijuana Laws, MU Students for Sensible Drug Policy and MU NORML 
are circulating the petitions.

The petition for decriminalizing the growing of up to six plants in 
Columbia requires the signatures of 2,567 registered voters, Missouri 
NORML coordinator Dan Viets, a Columbia lawyer, said. He hopes to 
submit the local petition next summer.

The Columbia City Council would have to either adopt the change or 
put it to a public vote.

In 2014, a similar change in city law was proposed by Sixth Ward 
Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe. Her original proposal included 
cultivation of up to six plants, but she amended it to two in hopes 
of reaching a compromise. The council rejected the two-plant proposal 
on a 4 to 3 vote.

Benton Berigan, president of MU NORML, said six plants is the 
standard model for states that have legalized cultivation.

"Since there is no other way for people to obtain cannabis without 
acquiring it through the black market, a logical expansion of our 
local ordinances would be to allow individuals the ability to 
cultivate their own cannabis, in the privacy of their home," Berigan 
said. "Not only to reduce their exposure to black market and making 
acquaintances with drug dealers, but to avoid the harsh penalties 
associated with acquiring cannabis through personal cultivation."
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