Pot-Signature Drive Kicks Into Gear 

Pot-Signature Drive Kicks Into Gear 
Posted by CN Staff on January 29, 2008 at 08:26:12 PT
By Dave Woods
Source: Joplin Globe
Missouri -- Four months after Kelly Maddy stood on the sidewalk outside Joplin City Hall, flanked by supporters of his effort to decriminalize marijuana use in the city, the campaign is kicking into high gear.Maddy, president of the Joplin chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, spent several hours Sunday in front of Dillons grocery store, soliciting signatures for the Sensible Sentencing Initiative. He met with a couple of less-than-friendly responses.
Jerry Creech, 69, said the idea of decriminalizing possession of marijuana in Joplin is a no-go for him. “It’s against the law,” he said. “It has no purpose. It just leads to the next step. ... All drug laws should be tougher than s---.”Another shopper, Casey Weathers, 27, wouldn’t sign the petition either.“I believe that it’s a gateway drug that leads to harder things, particularly with young kids,” Weathers said. “It opens a doorway that doesn’t need to be opened. I think that is stupid.”Since announcing the campaign on Sept. 22, Maddy and his pot proponents have collected about half the signatures needed to put the issue before voters in November.“Right now, we are right around 2,700 rough signatures,” Maddy said. “We are just starting to verify the signatures we have collected with Newton, Jasper County and Joplin voter lists. I think we are well on our way to putting this on the ballot as long as we keep up the momentum.” Maddy said the group will collect more than the number needed because signature-validity rates hover around 55 percent.City Clerk Barbara Hogelin has estimated that the group will need close to 5,000 signatures of registered Joplin voters to get the initiative on the ballot, but the exact number will not be known until after April’s municipal election. Maddy attributed some of the success in gathering signatures so far to training provided to the organization’s volunteers.“At our meetings that we hold biweekly, we walk through typical rebuttals that people would give you, like role-playing,” he said. “We teach people how to present themselves respectfully and professionally, because this is a stigmatizing issue, and we don’t want people going out there being totally unprofessional and being counterculture.“A lot of people have turned away from this issue because of that.”He said he understands what the campaign is up against. “It’s a morality issue for a lot of people,” Maddy acknowledged. “We have a big religious community here, and I would say the No. 1 argument is that it’s immoral to sanction marijuana use.”Proposed Rules If the proposal is endorsed by voters, possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana or possession of marijuana paraphernalia would become an administrative infraction — like a traffic ticket or nuisance violation — and not a criminal violation in Joplin. Thirty-five grams is about 1 1/4 ounces.Possession cases currently are not referred to the county prosecutor unless the amount of marijuana is 35 grams or more, making it a felony offense, according to Cpl. Chuck Niess of the Joplin Police Department.Numbers provided by the Joplin Police Department indicate that the average age of those arrested for marijuana possession from July 2006 to July 2007 was 26.5 years. They were overwhelmingly male and predominately white. The proposal says adults arrested for simple possession of marijuana, which is 35 grams or less, or for possession of marijuana paraphernalia would not be jailed or have to post bond. Those found guilty of the infraction in municipal court would be subject to a $250 maximum fine. Under current law, those convicted of marijuana possession or possession of paraphernalia within the city are subject to a $500 fine and/or 100 days or less in jail, based on the judge’s discretion at sentencing. ‘Buzz is Growing’ “When we started canvassing for signatures in September, a lot of people were just like, ‘Whoa, what’s this?’” Maddy said. But interest is growing, he said.“Now, people are coming forward and saying: ‘I want to be a part of this. Give me a petition. Where can I sign? Where are your events?’” he said. “The buzz is growing, and I think people know this is going to be a relevant issue in 2008.” Whether residents agree with his point of view or not, Maddy said signing the petition is a way to get involved in democracy at the grass-roots level.“Signing the petition doesn’t mean you support this or not support this. It just means that you want to see this voted on,” he said. “The best way to see how the city feels on this issue is to have the most scientific poll you can, and that’s the poll on Election Day.”Maddy said he has been pleasantly surprised at the reception — mixed as it is.“It has been about half and half,” he said of canvassing in Joplin. “We have had no volatile responses. It’s just people saying yes or no.“The most somebody has said is that, ‘I wish they would arrest all of you,’ which is what they are doing now anyway,” he added with a laugh.Dave Woods is the new media editor for The Joplin Globe.Next Up: A petition rally and fund-raiser for the Joplin Sensible Sentencing Initiative is planned for 7 p.m. today at Blackthorn Pizza and Pub, 510 S. Joplin Ave. Newshawk: Dongenero Source: Joplin Globe, The (MO)Author: Dave WoodsPublished: January 28, 2008Copyright: 2008 The Joplin GlobeContact: letters joplinglobe.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:NORML Pot Petitions Gaining Ground Decriminalization Initiative Petition Announced
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Comment #2 posted by Hope on January 29, 2008 at 10:03:01 PT
“It opens a doorway that doesn’t need to be opened. I think that is stupid.”I think it's astoundingly ignorant to not know that the door is already wide open and it's got more danger lurking in the already outrageously wide open doorway than there has to be. Especially for younger people.Sheer ignorance of reality is what Casey Weathers is suffering from. That's "stupid". Being purposely blind and wrapping himself in his comfy delusion is Mr. Weathers' real problem. Is that warm and comfortable, that delusion your hugging around yourself, Mr. Weathers? It must be. You sure are clinging to it.
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Comment #1 posted by museman on January 29, 2008 at 08:44:32 PT
The Bible belt begins to waken
Joplin is just an brief drive from where my family roots originate. The old Missouri mule is a tough sell.
Someone needs to explain the difference between 'ethical' and 'moral' behavior to some of those folks.Thank God for my generation of flatlanders in Kansas and Missouri. I remember the 70's and the midwest. They might not have gotten the notice of the media, but they were a bunch of stoners big time. And if my politically incorrect term for cannabis smokers gives prohibitionists a finger to point, allow me to state this;A lot of black folk all call themselves the 'N' word as a kind of street endearment, but a white person might die suddenly if heard to say it. Same with the terms we applied to ourselves.'Stoners' and 'Heads' for example, are our terms, not the media, and their use of them to belittle, dehumanize, and ridicule us is like whitey calling a black man a 'n.'Totally unethical. Probably very moral though, seeing as how morality is defined by religious interpretation, and designed by the principalities as emotional shackles for the mind.Go Mo.
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