Chadwick under fire for dissenting vote on marijuana ordinance

The proposed ordinance failed 4-3 during a City Council meeting Oct. 20.

After City Council shot down a marijuana ordinance proposal at its Oct. 20 meeting, some citizens are questioning First Ward Councilwoman Ginny Chadwick’s vote.

The ordinance, which would have allowed chronically ill Columbians to grow up to two marijuana plants with a doctor’s recommendation and decriminalized possession of up to 35 grams in Columbia, was voted down 4-3. With the current law in Missouri, cultivation of marijuana risks a felony charge and up to 15 years in prison.

Chadwick ultimately decided against the ordinance. During her campaign, Chadwick supported the idea of the further decriminalization of marijuana in Columbia.

A Facebook page called “Recall First Ward Councilperson Ginny Chadwick” cropped up, started by Eapen Thampy, who is also a founder of the Show-Me Cannabis lobby effort. Legalizing the drug would minimize crime, Thampy said.

“We were excited when we heard that there was a possibility of getting cultivation decriminalized here,” he said. “We’d be the first municipality in the United States to take that.”

Thampy, who had been positive about the ordinance passing, said miscommunication was the leading cause behind the move to recall Chadwick.

“The big deal was she broke a campaign promise without communicating to us,” Thampy said.

Chadwick said that during her campaign she had “supported a theoretical idea of the proposal” and not this particular proposal itself.

However, Chadwick said some logistics with the ordinance, such as enforcement, led to her ‘no’ vote.

Board of Health member David Sohl spoke at the Oct. 20 meeting. He discussed the board’s decision to advise against the proposal as one without the comprehensiveness or the infrastructure to be effective.

Sohl referenced House Bill 1324, which was proposed at the state level but was not passed. This bill, of which a section was called the "Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act,” legalized medical marijuana use and cultivation with caveats such as a required registration process, designated distribution centers and licenses to grow.

HB 1324 and another bill, HB 2238, were used as examples of what an effective ordinance would look like.

“This proposed ordinance just doesn’t have the thoroughness or clarity that those do,” Sohl said.

Columbia’s proposed ordinance would have allowed medical marijuana users to gain a one-time approval from a doctor with no registration and no follow-up. Sohl said this would be similar to an unlimited prescription, something non-existent in respect to any other drug.

Additionally, if the ordinance were to pass, confusion between whether the MU Police Department or the Columbia Police Department would deal with situations involving marijuana, would result.

MUPD would be bound by state and federal laws, while CPD would follow the new ordinance.

Trey Sprick, president of Associated Students of the University of Missouri, said that according to the councilwoman, this is one of the biggest reasons Chadwick voted against the ordinance. He agreed that the policy would be incredibly difficult to enforce but even more difficult to educate the student body about.

“As someone who has worked on student education initiatives since freshman year, (it’s) absolutely impossible,” Sprick said.

Chad Phillips, MU senior and Campus and Community Relations Committee chairman, said he agreed with this sentiment.

“Even if somehow we could educate them in the long term, the short term implications of that would have been very, very severe,” Phillips said.

Thampy viewed this mindset as one disrespectful towards students.

“That’s very tone deaf,” Thampy said. “It’s very patronizing. There are tens of thousands of students here who are getting advanced degrees. To say that these smart people can’t understand what the law that she’s passing means is a little ridiculous to me.”

Thampy’s recall effort needs about 250 signatures to reach next year’s ballot and he said he is confident in his ability to collect them.

“Chadwick made it very clear that she stands for more incarceration rather than education,” Thrampy said.

Sprick disagreed.

“Most of her current constituents did not vote for her,” Sprick said.

MU, which makes up the majority of the first ward, has a turnover rate that is such that many students were not here last April when Chadwick was elected. Additionally, many students are not registered to vote in Boone County.

“I think it’s absurd that a small group of individuals think that she should be kicked out of office for absolutely representing the needs of her constituency,” Sprick said.

At the end of the day, Chadwick justified her vote much the same way the others who voted “no” did.

“We don’t have the ability as a municipality to change the state and federal laws,” Chadwick said. She said she believes she did what was best for MU students.

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