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Still Trying to Get Pot Penalty Reduced in Springfield

Once again, the Springfield City Council has voted against lowering the penalty for pot possession in the city. They also decided not to revisit the matter in August. This has been an ongoing battle between decriminalization advocates and the city council members and the source of more than a few political shenanigans.

The last time a proposal got enough signatures to force a vote, the council simply approved the measure, dropping it from the ballot. But then they repealed it. The net result was nullification of the proposal process which demands the council either adopt a measure or put in on the ballot. By adopting and then rescinding, the council meets the letter, if not the spirit of the law.

The whole kerfuffle is about whether fines for possession of small amounts of marijuana should be enacted as a city ordinance. In other cities that are pro-pot, this has been a method to get past more restrictive state laws. When confronted by a city policeman in a jurisdiction with a lower local penalty, those caught with pot may only have to pay a ticket and not get an arrest record at all. That’s the essence of what Springfield residents want – at least those residents that support the measure.

By keeping the matter off the ballot, the city council has been able to control the outcome. If it passed as a ballot measure, they’d be stuck with it. The council’s position seems to be that such laws are properly a statewide issue and not something the city should interfere with. They may not be against marijuana in general, but see the issue as one where city ordinance shouldn’t be used to get around state laws regulating marijuana.

Whether advocates will continue to push the issue remains to be seen.


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