It has been an exciting, if bittersweet, week for cannabis law reform in Missouri. We experienced a major success in Springfield, but it could be undone if reformers do not rise up to defend it. As we push forward to change policy in the here and now, we are also laying the groundwork for the long battles to come with several new fundraising events.
A Tenuous Victory in Springfield
On Monday, Springfield’s City Council approved the measure to reclassify possession of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an ordinance violation, which leaves no criminal record, by a vote of six to three. This reform could prevent hundreds of arrests for marijuana possession in Springfield every year and save people convicted of the offense from the lifelong punishment of a criminal record — an achievement worthy of celebration.
However, the council now has 30 days to propose amendments to the measure, and two council members,Â John RushÂ andÂ Jeff Seifried, admitted that they only voted for it to prevent it from reaching the voters. Rush referred to passing the bill in order to “kill” it, and Seifried stated a desire to “gut” the bill before it could take effect. (SeeÂ hereÂ for video.) Not only is voting for this legislation simply to repeal it after the fact bad policy, it is an affront to democracy. If the council members disapprove of the measure in its entirety, they should have voted against it and allowed the people to have their say on the matter, as intended by Springfield’s city charter. If you live in Springfield, please contact these council members and let them know that you will not stand for this manipulation of the democratic process!Â Cannabis law reformers in Springfield have won a great victory; we cannot allow double-dealing politicians to steal it from them.
Whatever the eventual outcome, I believe the Springfield campaign should give us hope and confidence. Gandhi famously (although perhaps apocryphally)Â said “first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” I can remember cannabis law reform being ignored and laughed at, but we have now clearly entered the fighting stage.
The City Council will not vote on any changes to this measure until Monday, September 10th at the earliest, so rest assured that I will keep you updated on any developments on the situation.
Regardless of whether the current cannabis law reform survives in Springfield, we will not allow this issue to fade away in Springfield or anywhere in the state of Missouri. We are building this organization for the long haul and will not rest until the cause is fought and won. To that end, we are working on a number of fundraising events that will allow us to expand our efforts to end cannabis prohibition. Two events have been confirmed so far, but we will be announcing many others in the near future.
On Wednesday, September 26th, former SMCR board member Betty Taylor will be putting on a Cannabis Comedy Night at The Way Out Club, located at 2525 S Jefferson in Saint Louis. The evening will feature comedians Ngaio Bealum — who is a regular act at cannabis events across the country as he discusses in this short bit — and Ben Vitoff. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door, and all proceeds will go to SMCR and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, another great drug law reform organization to which Betty Taylor belongs. Doors will open at 7 P.M., and the comedians will go on at 8. Come out for some stand up and support what you stand for in the process!
Just a few days later, on Saturday, September 29th, a full lineup of bands will come together to support the reform in Springfield and entertain the crowd at Lindbergs, located at 318 W Commercial Street. The owner of Lindbergs reached out to us when activists were still in the signature gathering stage and generously offered to host and help plan a benefit for the campaign. Doors will open at 3:00 P.M. Bands will start at 4:00, and run until 1:00 A.M. For a $5 donation, you will get nine bands, several speakers (myself included), and raffles throughout the day. Check out the event page hereÂ and mark your calendar!
Finally, we will be hosting a trivia night in the Saint Louis Area on Saturday, October 20th at the Oakville Elks Lodge, located just off Interstate 255 at 4261 Berghill Drive. Doors will open at 6 P.M., and questions will start at 7. Tables of up to eight players will cost $175 until September 15th, and $200 afterward. Beer and soft drinks will be provided, and participants can bring their own food. VIP tables are also available for $300, and that includes a table up front in the VIP section, a bottle of wine at your table, and a waiter to transport your drinks and scorecard.Â The first place team will win a cash prize. Additionally, there will be raffles and a silent auction. If you would like to make a reservation for the event, call or email Craig Wicker with BWC Events at 314-378-2679 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you need details on any of these events — or any new events that we announce –Â check the calendar on our website.
What We Are Up Against
The Springfield City Council vote shows us that our opposition is digging in their heels, going so far as to undermine the democratic system to prevent common sense reforms to our draconian cannabis laws. But the good news is that we have their attention now, and they are being forced to take this issue seriously. We have a long way to go, but we are making steady progress. Please help us push forward even faster by attending a fundraising event, donating online, or — best of all — both!