Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Rolla Public Library Relents, Gives Access to Marijuana Advocacy Group

Posted By on Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 9:04 AM

COURTESY OF FLICKR/CHUCK GRIMMETT

The ACLU has settled its case against the Rolla Public Library — after the library agreed not to discriminate against advocates for marijuana legalization.

Daniela Velazquez, a spokeswoman for the ACLU, said the case was formally dismissed on Monday in response to the policy change.

As the RFT first reported in March, Randy Johnson, a volunteer coordinator for New Approach Missouri, sought to schedule a meeting at the library to train other volunteers on how to “properly and ethically” collect signatures for a petition drive to legalize weed. But when he called the library to book a public meeting room, the director told him the meeting room was too close to the children's room. "We can't have that," she said.

The ACLU sued in May, saying Johnson's First Amendment rights were violated by the librarian deciding to bar his access based on his political beliefs.

“The Rolla Public Library had allowed personal ideologies to stand between a member of the community and access to a public space – a clear violation of Mr. Johnson’s constitutional rights,” Tony Rothert, ACLU of Missouri legal director, said in a prepared statement. “Following the library’s thoughtful consideration of its own policies, we believe the new meeting policy will ensure public access is afforded to all equally.”

“Petitioning the government and direct ballot initiatives are two major ways people use their voice to bring change to their community,” Johnson said in a statement. “Volunteers like me exercise our constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petitioning the government to place issues directly before voters. This settlement will help protect our right to free speech and allow us to continue to work to bring the issue of medical marijuana to voters.”

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com

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