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Missouri pot activists may sue after Springfield re-criminalizes marijuana

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Missouri drug reform activists told Raw Story on Tuesday that they’re looking to sue or trigger recall elections after city officials in Springfield voted Monday to re-criminalize marijuana, just one month after the same city council passed a citizen-driven initiative that would have kept small time pot offenders out of jail.

The council voted to decriminalize marijuana near the end of August after activists with the group Show-Me Cannabis Regulation received enough petition signatures to put their measure on the Election Day ballot.

“We put a measure before the city council by gather 2,101 petition signatures from Springfield residents,” John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, told Raw Story on Tuesday. “The city council had two options: either pass the proposal without amendment or reject the proposal and send it to voters for an election. They passed it 6-3, but several members said at the time that they voted for the measure specifically to repeal it later.”

The council did exactly that on Monday night, voting 7-2 for repeal, according to The Associated Press. The ordinance did not have a chance to take effect. Council members said they were worried the ordinance would conflict with state law.

Payne, however, insisted that wouldn’t have been a problem. “[The proposal] was within the state’s prescribed range of punishment,” he said. “That argument that it conflicts with state and federal law is complete gibberish.”

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Missouri state law considers possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana to be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of one year in prison and a fine not to exceed $1,000. The rules rejected by the Springfield council sought to cap fines to just $150 and called for police to stop arresting people for simple possession.

Moving forward, Payne told Raw Story that Show-Me Cannabis Regulation is giving serious consideration to suing the city.

“How can the council do this?” he asked. “We believe this is in direct violation of the city charter, which says directly that if we bring an initiative to the council, they have to put it before the voters and not just pass it in order to repeal it. So, litigation, a referrendum petition, or even recall petitions for members of the council — we’re weighing all our options.”
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