When a dedicated group of activists hoping to reform Springfield, Missouri’s punitive marijuana laws turned in thousands of signatures they had collected fair and square, they thought the next step would be for voters in Springfield to decide whether or not to support their proposal. In other words, they thought the initiative process works like common sense says it should. They were wrong. What happened next is an example of disenfranchisement so egregious it belongs in a work of fiction.
The Springfield City Council, as is their legal right, went ahead and passed the ordinance, meaning it would not be placed on the November ballot. Their stated reason for this was that they didn’t want the city to have to front the cost of printing the issue on general election ballots. In other words, they were just trying to save the city some money, they said. Normally, at this point, the story would be over. But this is Springfield.
Immediately after the council passed the ordinance, they voted to “table” it, so they could amend the law to their liking. Some wanted to raise the $150 fine, which they thought was too low. Others wanted to remove a provision establishing a “citizen oversight commission.” It gets worse. After 150 people showed up to offer their testimony—the overwhelming majority in support of the original ordinance—four of the nine councilmembers moved forward with a plan to repeal the entire ordinance, stripping citizens of their fundamental right to vote on the proposal. Here’s a quote from one of those councilmembers, and I promise I’m not making this up: "I'm going to support passing, and then gutting, the entire ordinance," said Councilman Jeff Seifried. "This is the fiscally responsible way to do business."
Last night those oligarchs councilmembers followed through on their intentions and repealed the ordinance. The petitioners from Show Me Cannabis Regulation who gathered the signatures are assessing their options now. They have 30 days to gather more signatures to repeal the council’s vote (which, of course, could then be overturned by the council). More likely, they’ll sue to challenge the council’s action as violating the city charter’s initiative language. Either way, one thing is clear: the Springfield, Missouri City Council does not care about your voting rights.
In medical marijuana states, it is pretty common to hear sensational news reports about crime associated with dispensaries. Stories of violent robberies, late-night burglaries, diversion and illegal sales, weapons, and even murder get a lot of attention from the media. They get even more attention from law enforcement, who see such stories as yet another way to convince people that medical marijuana is dangerous and scary and should be revoked.
Law enforcement is so desperate to prove this connection between dispensaries and crime that they searched all over the country for data that would support their hypothesis.
Lo and behold, it turns out the exact opposite is true.
Today, the non-partisan Rand Corporation released a study on crime near dispensaries conducted in Los Angeles before and after a recent ordinance forced the closure of nearly 400 locations. According to the report, crime increased by as much as 54% in the areas surrounding dispensaries that were forced to close within ten days of the ordinance going into effect. Neighborhoods near dispensaries that stayed open showed no increase in crime during that period.
We at MPP have been saying for some time that by closing dispensaries in medical marijuana states (or localities, even), authorities are driving patients into the illicit market. While I would hesitate to call such an act a crime, as opposed to a necessity, this study apparently shows that other sorts of crime are affected by the presence of dispensaries. Some contributing factors include the large volume of people there throughout the day, the security measures put in place to protect patients and employees, and the fact that the police actually depend on dispensary video surveillance to prevent and solve crimes!
Authorities should take note of this information, particularly in places like Michigan and Montana, where the medical marijuana industries have been all but shut down recently by overzealous public officials and community groups. Most of these groups depended on overblown concerns about community safety for their efforts to be successful. It’s time for a little education.