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Council Passes Marijuana Ordinance, But Plans to Make Changes

Springfield City Council voted 6-3 Monday night to adopt an ordinance that would lessen the punishment for possession of small amounts of marijuana. But council members plan to amend the bill.  KSMU’s Melanie Foehrweiser has details.

The marijuana initiative would restrict what penalties could be imposed on possession of less than 35 grams. Dan Wichmer is the City Attorney.

“It also would cap a fine up to $150 and it would require that marijuana only 35 gram or less offenses go to municipal court.”

The ordinance contains two other parts, which Wichmer says may not be legal. The first is an expungement provision.

“Which means that after a certain number of years you could go and ask the judge to wipe off the record of the offense and you wouldn’t have to answer a question that you were ever…pled guilty to or convicted of that offense. I don’t believe that is legal,” Wichmer says.

The other provision is what Wichmer describes as an issue caused by a “quirk” in the charter. The provision says that citizens cannot require council to appoint task forces. The purpose of those task forces would be to look into how the ordinance was being put in place, and how it was working.

By passing the ordinance, council can amend the bill in any way they want to, with majority approval. This means they could gut the bill completely, or even repeal it. If the bill had failed, it would have gone to the voters.

“And that’s where our other charter provisions kick in, which is if it goes to a vote and if it passes then you have to have a unanimous vote to do anything with it from there on out,” says Wichmer.

The ordinance will go into effect 30 days from when it was approved. Council will use those 30 days to create amendments.  

For KSMU News, I’m Melanie Foehrweiser.