Columbia marijuana ordinance has gained support on both sides since April

Columbia City Council tables proposed revisions to marijuana law until October

Columbia marijuana ordinance has gained support on both sides

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Columbia City Council tabled marijuana ordinance discussions again on Monday. Now, city leaders will wait until October 6 to hear both sides of the proposed revision to the law.

The issue first appeared before the City Council in April. Council members suggested both sides seek recommendations regarding the revision before another meeting this past Monday.

Supporters and opponents have submitted recommendations to the city during that four month span, but leaders tabled the discussion again. Dan Viets, a marijuana activist, told ABC 17 that's because the meeting fell during a time when several people were not in town.

Both sides have used the time to rally support. According to documents attached to the city council agenda, those against the ordinance's revisions include the Substance Abuse Advisory Council, the Board of Health and Columbia Public Schools. Viets said League of Women Voters, the Columbia Daily Tribune, Missouri Civil Liberties Association and Missouri Association of Social Welfare stand behind those in support of the law's changes.

Supporters propose revisions to the current marijuana ordinance law that makes it only a misdemeanor charge to possess 35 milligrams or less of marijuana. Approval of the revisions will allow growing up to six marijuana plants for personal use but make the penalty even more relaxed. Those found guilty in possession of 35 milligrams of marijuana or growing no more than six marijuana plants will appear before municipal court and pay a $250 fee for violating a city ordinance.

Viets said under current state law, growing any amount of marijuana is a felony charge.

"And, I've had several clients in just the past few years who were charged of cultivation of very small amounts, and those people face penalties that are similar to murder. You know? Ten to life. That's what we give to people who commit murders of horrible, violent crimes," Veits said. "And yet, someone who tries to grow a marijuana plant is facing the same penalty. The same as someone who has murdered someone would face. That's just insane."

Viets said the proposed revisions still makes growing and possessing marijuana illegal but comes with a more reasonable punishment for those with smaller amounts.

Opponents of the revisions fear the community will misunderstand the law and assume growing or possessing within city limits is allowed. The Board of Health argues it will create easier access to the drug in a community that's fighting to keep it out of the hands of its student-oriented population.

To see both sides' recommendations, visit the city council agenda's website.

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