No vote on pot? We'll see you in court

ILLINOIS:  It may have saved the cost of an election, but City Council’s decision to pass and then quickly repeal a citizen petition related to marijuana has landed current and former council members in federal court.

Local and out-of-state backers of the petition to reduce penalties for misdemeanor marijuana possession filed a lawsuit against the city late Wednesday.

The lawsuit, which names current and former council members and City Manager Greg Burris as well as the city as a whole, alleges that council violated the constitutional rights of petition supporters.

The suit was filed by Maranda Reynolds, who helped organize the local petition effort, as well as the nonprofit groups Show-Me Cannabis Regulation and American Victory Coalition, based in Oregon. Both groups provided financial support for the petition drive that sent the proposed bill to council in August 2012.

At times referred to as a “decriminalization” ordinance, the petition sought to remove criminal penalties for first- or second-time offenders caught with up to 35 grams of marijuana, an amount about equal to a sandwich bag. Instead, offenders would be subject to fines, community service and/or drug education programs.

The proposal proved unpopular with local law enforcement. City legal staff also argued that provisions allowing for past convictions to be expunged and mandating creation of a citizen oversight panel were in conflict with state law.