A Columbia advisory panel researching a proposed ordinance that would decriminalize cultivation of small amounts of marijuana has agreed to work with the city’s Board of Health on the issue before making a recommendation to the City Council this summer.
A measure sponsored by Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe would allow seriously ill people to possess up to six marijuana plants without penalty if they have a doctor’s recommendation. It also would make cultivation of up to six plants by the general public a municipal violation with a maximum fine of $250, and direct police to take offenders to municipal court before state court.
The City Council tabled the ordinance on Monday, and asked the Substance Abuse Advisory Commission and the Board of Health to review the proposed changes and give a recommendation in four months.
Commission member Candy Cornman, a sergeant with the Columbia Police Department, said Wednesday she didn’t like that Hoppe’s proposal would change the word “adults” to “people.”
“As it stands right now my 10-year-old can grow six plants,” she said.
She also said regulations should be in place to monitor how potent the tetrahydrocannabinol, pot’s psychoactive agent known as THC, is in the plants that people may be able to grow.
Several commissioners said they want to find data on how marijuana legalization has affected youths in Colorado and Washington state, which recently approved recreational use for adults. Eighteen other states allow some form of medical marijuana.
Dan Viets, a local attorney and marijuana decriminalization activist, crafted Hoppe’s legislation as he did 10 years ago when voters approved allowing seriously ill patients with their doctor’s permission to possess marijuana. That legislation also changed the punishment for possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana to a $250 fine, though residents are still subject to federal and state laws prohibiting marijuana possession and use.
Former League of Women Voters member Eleanor Wickersham said the effect of the new proposal on youths is moot because they can easily access marijuana now, anyway. Current laws do little to stem marijuana use, she said.
“It doesn’t prevent it so why don’t you do something different,” she said. “Treat it as something that needs to be educated about, treat it as something that needs to be treated if someone is having problems with it.”
But Ryan Worley of the Youth Community Coalition cited studies he said discredited commonly held beliefs that marijuana can help alleviate the symptoms of conditions like glaucoma and arthritis, and which call into question the “legitimacy of this ordinance and the whole idea of medical marijuana itself.”
“The idea that making something legal or less illegal, reducing penalties will lead to reduction in use by youth” is “unfounded,” he said.