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Friday, May 22, 2009

University City Next Stop For Missouri's Marijuana Decriminalization Movement?

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2009 at 2:00 PM

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The Columbia Missourian published an AP story this morning that outlines the Missouri cities that the state's marijuana activists have selected as candidates for decriminalization petitions and ballot measures in the coming year.

The prospective "battleground" cities include Springfield, Cape Girardeau, and Kansas City suburb Blue Springs. 

For those suffering from chronic short term memory loss, Columbia and the tiny Joplin suburb of Cliff Village are currently the only Show-Me State cities where a pot possession is (relatively) legal.

Near the end of the article, however, there was this teasing little nugget of information: "Organizers might also soon target University City, a St. Louis suburb near Washington University, said Joseph Welch, a criminal defense attorney leading the effort."

Welch is also the co-director of the Greater St. Louis Chapter of NORML. Reached by phone this afternoon, he was happy to elaborate on his organization's plans for a marijuana decriminalization ballot drive in the RFT's hood.

Welch said that right now they're mostly focused on a marijuana decriminalization petition currently underway in the city of St. Louis. He admitted, however, that the movement had stalled with only about 2,000 of the required 12,000 signatures in hand.

As for U-City, here's what Welch had to say:

We're definitely going to do it. It's next on our list. Not right now, but we'd like to get started within the next few months.

It would be similar to the initiative in the city of St. Louis. If it got on the ballot and was passed by voters it would make possession of a misdemeanor amount of marijuana, currently anything less than 35 grams, punishable by only a $100 fine in city municipal court. It would take away city police's power to arrest people [for pot possession] and take away the threat of jail time

We feel that University City voters would be favorable toward a petition of this sort. It's a more progressive community. That's not saying other municipalities aren't progressive, but we feel like U-City is a good place to start.

It's certainly an interesting proposition. Not only are there thousands of sympathetic college students scurrying around without bloodshot eyes, U-City state rep Maria Chapelle-Nadal has been a vocal supporter of marijuana law reform, co-sponsoring the state's most recent medical marijuana bill.

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