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Friday, September 5, 2008


Fayetteville, AR: Fayetteville voters will have the choice on Election Day to vote on making adult marijuana possession the lowest police priority. Sensible Fayetteville initiative sponsors turned in just over 1000 additional signatures on August 29 to meet a shortfall of 301 valid signatures. City Clerk Sondra Smith contacted campaign coordinator Ryan Denham today to say that the petition has qualified with over the required total of 3686 signatures that were required to qualify the petition.

Denham praised the city clerk and staff for their professional conduct and courtesy during the laborious verification process. "They worked hard. We were impressed by city operations."

"Now we turn our attention to providing more in-depth information to the voters leading up to Election Day. This initiative offers residents an important opportunity to help guide Fayetteville’s future through better allocation of our resources. It also shows that Fayetteville is willing to take a leadership role among other cities across the nation in addressing failed public policy. And we believe this will benefit Fayetteville’s largest industry, the University of Arkansas, by reducing the number of students penalized with loss of financial aid for marijuana prosecutions. We respect the dedication of our police and prosecutor and believe this measure spells out the public’s full support for their use of enforcement discretion."

Sensible Fayetteville formed in 2007 as a coalition of OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, & Ecology, the Green Party of Washington County, the University of Arkansas student group NORML-SSDP, and the Alliance for Reform of Drug Policy in Arkansas, Inc.

The measure, entitled "Lowest Law Enforcement and Prosecutorial Priority Policy Ordinance," would require Fayetteville police and prosecutor to treat adult marijuana possession offenses as their lowest priority. Further, the measure requires the city clerk to send an annual letter to state and federal legislators, governor, and president stating: "The citizens of Fayetteville have passed an initiative to de-prioritize 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." This duty shall be carried out until state and federal laws are changed accordingly.

The full text of the proposed ordinance can be viewed at Similar laws have been passed by communities in Missouri, Montana, Washington, California, and Colorado. In Arkansas, a similar measure in Eureka Springs passed with 62% of the vote in 2006. Sponsors state that more than one survey by Zogby International have show that over two-thirds of Arkansas voters support reforms that would reduce penalties for adult marijuana use.