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Marijuana: It's Official -- Fayetteville Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Initiative Makes November Ballot

Fayetteville, Arkansas, will be the latest locality to vote on an initiative that would make adult marijuana possession offenses the lowest law enforcement priority. City officials certified late last week that, after a second round of signature-gathering, initiative organizers had indeed collected more than enough valid signatures to place the measure on the November 4 ballot.

Sponsored by Sensible Fayetteville, the initiative would "make investigations, citations, arrests, property seizures, and prosecutions for adult marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia offenses, where the marijuana was intended for adult personal use, the City of Fayetteville's lowest law enforcement and prosecutorial priority." It would also require city officials to write annual letters to state and federal authorities calling for the reform of marijuana laws.

According to Sensible Fayetteville, 402 people were arrested on marijuana possession charges in Fayetteville in 2005 alone, while the state of Arkansas spends $30 million a year enforcing marijuana laws. Marijuana arrests "clog the courts and jails" and policing resources "would be better-spent fighting serious and violent crimes," the group said.

But it looks like Fayetteville prosecutors and police, as well as University of Arkansas police, are going to ignore the will of the voters if the measure passes. The city attorney said that marijuana possession is a Class A misdemeanor under state law, and that a municipal ordinance cannot supersede state law, while city and college police chiefs said they would continue to enforce state law.

"From a legal point of view, this ordinance has no effect," City Attorney Kit Williams told the Arkansas Traveler. "It would be like if we passed an ordinance saying we weren't going to enforce drunken driving laws," Williams said. "We would still have to enforce them."

Spokesmen for the University of Arkansas Police Department and the Fayetteville Police also told the Traveler they would continue to enforce state law.

But supporters of the initiative said passage would be an historic move. "When we pass an initiative like this, we send a message that we will no longer accept inaction," said Jacob Holloway, field organizer for Sensible Fayetteville. "By bringing light to this issue, we can change not only local laws but state and federal laws, as well."

"This is an opportunity for the people of Fayetteville to say that the drug laws need to be changed," said Ryan Denham, campaign director for Sensible Fayetteville.

But if the comments from prosecutors and law enforcement are any indication, a victory at the polls in November will be only the first step in gaining actual reform of the city's marijuana policy. Still, you have to start somewhere.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Law Enforcement Priorities


City Attorney Kit Williams is obviously delusional. What are the odds of the people voting in favor of overturning drunk driving laws? Comparing drunken driving to adult possession of plant material is beyond rediculous. But then again, she`s just doing her " job ".

This is what i'm thinking if

This is what i'm thinking if Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana pass med mj laws then we can stop mexican cartels from exploiting Texas and moving mj. It is one less thing the bad killers in Mexico can use to make money, while helping out the medical communities - the less money the government spends on medical stuff for people who can just grow their own means more money to be spent in other areas of the state governments or federal or both even local too.

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