Longtime readers of this newsletter will remember that we sued the city of Springfield last year after the City Council used legislative chicanery to prevent an initiative to reduce penalties on possession of small amounts of cannabis from reaching the city’s voters. We supported the petition by helping to pay for signatures and publicizing it, and it was certified to be considered by the Council in August 2012.
According to the City Charter, the Council was supposed to either pass the initiative into law or reject it and send it to voters in November. Instead, several members of the Council crafted a ruse in which they passed the proposal with the express intent of repealing it at the earliest possible opportunity.
We believed they violated the City Charter, as well as both the Missouri and the United States constitutions, so we sued the city in federal court. A trial was scheduled for this summer, but that will now be unnecessary as we have reached a settlement with the city in which they will pay $225,000 to end the suit.
Most of that will go towards attorney fees for the lawsuit, but we intend to use the rest as seed money for our 2016 campaign to legalize and regulate cannabis statewide. There is a delicious irony to the fact that the city government that worked so hard to attack and disrespect our efforts will now be one of our largest contributors.
Most importantly, I believe the Council will not attempt to subvert the democratic process like that again. Moreover, it also appears that the law we were pushing for in Springfield will largely be implemented statewide soon.
As Dan Viets wrote about last week, the long-awaited revision to the Missouri criminal code was passed by both houses of the legislature two weeks ago. That bill reduces first-time charges for possession of ten grams or less to a non-arrestable offense with no possibility of jail time.
The settlement with the city of Springfield was a true compromise in that nobody left totally happy with it. However, we are quite happy that the Council now understands that they cannot pull a fast one and expect to get away with it, and that we can now turn the page on this incident and concentrate more fully on our efforts to reform cannabis laws at the state level.