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Marijuana: Decriminalization Initiative Effort Gets Underway in Joplin, Missouri

Last Friday saw the kick-off of a campaign to put a marijuana decriminalization initiative on the ballot in the southwest Missouri city of Joplin. Local, regional, and national activists gathered in front of city hall to officially launch the initiative, which would make simple possession of marijuana an administrative offense punishable by no more than a $250 fine under city ordinances.

"We are here today to introduce an opportunity for the citizens of Joplin to enact a more sensible marijuana policy," said Kelly Maddy, president of the Joplin chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "Over 200 people were arrested in 2005 for marijuana possession in Joplin," he continued. "This is a waste of police resources that could otherwise be allocated to more serious crime. Our cities marijuana laws are not only a waste of taxpayer money and police resources, they are by definition a failed policy."

Maddy was joined at the press conference and last weekend's Joplin Cannabis Revival by Ryan Denham, head of the Alliance for Drug Reform Policy in Arkansas, and Kris Krane, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. They came to lend their support to what will be known as the Sensible Sentencing Initiative.

Under current Joplin law, misdemeanor marijuana possession can be punished by up to a $500 fine and 100 days in jail. Joplin police do not refer possession cases to county courts unless the amount in question is 35 grams or more -- a felony under state law.

While the Ozarks and surrounding region may not, at first glance, appear to be especially receptive to marijuana law reform efforts, victories have been achieved in the area. In 2003, Columbia, Missouri, passed a lowest law enforcement priority initiative, and tiny Eureka Springs, Arkansas, did the same thing last year.

In some cases where marijuana law reforms have been passed, police and prosecutors have ignored them, as in Denver, where authorities continue to prosecute people under state law even though Denver voters voted to legalize marijuana possession in 2005. That prospect seems unlikely in Joplin if the measure passes.

In an interview with the Joplin Globe under the headline "Chief Says His Job Is to Support Public Mandates," Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts said he would do just that. His job, he said, is to enforce the laws established by voters and elected lawmakers. "Somebody is going to say, 'you're the chief... you ought to oppose this thing,'" he said. "Somebody else will say 'you are the chief of police and supposed to be protecting our constitutional rights.' My argument is, 'yep ... you are right.'"

To qualify for the November 2008 ballot, initiative organizers need to collect 5,000 signatures, or 15% of the number of registered voters in the city. They have one year to do so.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Lower Fines

Wouldn't this be nice.
My little detainment in Arizona, with less than 1/4 oz. cost me total of $2475.23. Possession of pot and paraphernalia.

Lately

Anyone know whats been up about this lately? now that its november lol

i am completely supportive

i am completely supportive of marijuana legalization in missouri. . . its a plant. become one with the seed and marijuize legaluana. and one love to all the other 420 friendly people out there reading this. keep it real, pack yur bowls and sit back and relapse cause eventually marijuana legalization is going to happen and if it doesnt. . . im going to cali so i guess its all good anyway. -peace also, LONG LIVE THE KOTTONMOUTH KINGS.

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