Friday, August 29, 2008


Sensible Fayetteville will submit its second round of signatures
today in hopes of giving local voters the choice on election day to
make adult marijuana possession the lowest priority for police.

"We needed about 300 additional signatures, and so far, we've
collected upwards of 900,"Ryan Denham, campaign director, said."We've
almost tripled what we needed, and we're still going. We'll turn them
in at the end of [today ]."

Sensible Fayetteville is a local coalition made up of the OMNI Center
for Peace, Justice & Ecology, the Green Party of Washington County,
the University of Arkansas student branch of the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the Alliance for
Reform of Drug Policy in Arkansas Inc.

Initiative sponsors turned in a total of 5, 522 signatures Aug. 6. On
Aug. 19, City Clerk Sondra Smith and staff verified 3, 385 valid
signatures. Based on the number of votes cast in the city's last
mayoral election, a total of 3, 686 signatures are required to
qualify the petition.

"We compared the signatures on the petition to a list of registered
voters,"Smith said."Several people that signed the petition didn't
live in the city limits of Fayetteville, and since this is a city
issue, they have to reside in the city. Some people also signed more
than once."

In a last-minute effort to gather the remaining signatures, Denham
and fellow coalition members launched various public campaigns in the
Fayetteville Square and at Wilson Park. Additionally, all registered
voters who signed the petition dur ing the campaign will be entered
in a drawing. The winner will receive a Water Buddy Travel Filter.
This product retails for $ 59. 95.

"We've been working on this since last November,"Denham said."We've
been at the post office, the [University of Arkansas ] and we've been
going door-todoor. This is a local campaign, but it's a national
issue and we hope people understand that."

If approved, the amendment would be similar to the one approved in
Eureka Springs and would make"investigations, citations, arrests,
property seizures and prosecutions for adult marijuana and marijuana
parapher nalia offenses, where the marijuana was intended for adult
personal use, the city of Fayetteville's lowest law enforcement and
prosecutorial priority."

Denham said the focus is on adults who would fall under misdemeanor
offenses, which is possession of 1 ounce or less. He said enforcement
of the law, as written, only serves to increase law enforcement
expenditures and overcrowd jails.

Similar laws have been passed by communities in Missouri, Montana,
Washington, California and Colorado.

"A number of cities are starting to recognize what a waste the
current policy is,"he said."Marijuana arrests are clogging the system
and wasting our resources. We'd rather not have an adult arrested for
possessing 1 ounce of marijuana. We'd rather see them cited."

In addition to making marijuana possession the lowest priority for
police, the measure requires the city clerk to submit letters to
state and federal legislators, the governor and the president
stating"The citizens of Fayetteville have passed an initiative to
deprioritize adult marijuana offenses where the marijuana is intended
for personal use and request that the federal and Arkansas state
governments take immediate steps to enact similar laws."The letter
would be submitted annually until state and federal laws are changed

"This affects everyone in the United States,"Denham said."We've had a
record number of marijuana arrests. This year alone, about 829, 000
people were arrested on marijuana charges."

Smith said she doesn't know how long it will take to determine the
final sum of petition signatures.

"It depends on how legible the signatures are,"she said."Last time,
we had a lot that weren't legible. I had three people working on it
for almost 10 days. It was very time consuming. We hope to have them
counted up in about three days. Then we have to compare them to the
signatures we've already received to make sure there are no
duplications and make sure they're registered."

In Arkansas, Denham said, citizens have the right to petition local,
county and state government for changes in law.

Residents have until today to sign the petition by visiting Ozark
Glassworks on Huntsville Road or Sidney's Emporium on Dickson Street.

To view the full text of the proposed ordinance, visit

Newshawk: Citizen Efforts
Pubdate: Fri, 29 Aug 2008
Source: Northwest Arkansas Times (Fayetteville, AR)
Copyright: 2008 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Author: Kate Ward, Northwest Arkansas Times
Cited: Sensible Fayetteville
Bookmark: (Marijuana)

No comments: