Police pot petition challenged

Officers shouldn’t try to repeal new law, MU student said.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:57 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

An MU student expressed his disapproval of Columbia police officers’ efforts to try to repeal the city’s recently changed marijuana laws at the Columbia City Council meeting Monday evening.

Bailey Hirschburg, 21, said it is inappropriate for the Columbia Police Officers Association to petition to change the 6-month-old law that passed with more than 60 percent of the votes .

Members of the officers association announced last month that they would start a petition drive to ask the City Council to repeal the law and possibly place the issue on the ballot for the third time in as many years.

The law passed in November, making marijuana the “lowest law enforcement priority” in the city. In 2003, a similar proposition failed after receiving only 42 percent of the vote.

At a news conference in March, the officers association President Sterling Infield said his organization was caught sleeping before the 2004 vote and did not organize any opposition.

Hischburg asked the council in writing for permission to speak before the meeting and was added as part of the scheduled public comments portion. The council did not discuss or vote on the issue.

The MU sophomore said he wanted to make sure he addressed the council before the semester ends because he is worried the officers association may try to place a proposition on the ballot over the summer when most students are away from school.

Dates in June, August and November are available for public elections.

“For a law that disproportionately affects students to have them disproportionately left out of the issue is unfair,” Hirschburg said Monday afternoon.

Hirschburg, who said he smokes marijuana “socially” and responsibly, complimented police officers and prosecutors multiple times during his five-minute speech for respecting the intent of the ordinance and enforcing the laws accordingly.

Other members of MU’s chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws attended with Hirschburg, who is the president of the group.

The student said he canvassed for the proposition last year because it would help ensure that students did not lose the ability to receive federal student aid because of a state marijuana conviction. Under the new ordinance, Columbia police send all charges involving possession of 35 grams or less to the city’s municipal court.

Infield couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday.

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