- Associated Press - Friday, April 25, 2014

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - Springfield officials say they have reached an agreement in a lawsuit filed by groups trying to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

However, neither side is disclosing the terms of the settlement until it is signed by all interested parties. The details are likely to be revealed in the next few weeks, The Springfield News-Leader reported (http://sgfnow.co/1faEIdS ).

City Attorney Dan Wichmer said the city council approved the settlement during a closed session on April 15. All court proceedings in the lawsuit were put on hold April 17.

The agreement comes after more than a year of controversy, which began when the city council was asked to allow a public vote on a 2012 petition that would have prohibited jail time for first- or second-time offenders caught with up to 35 grams of marijuana. Offenders would instead be subjected to fines, community service and/or drug education programs.

Local organizer Maranda Reynolds had gathered enough signatures on the petition to force action by the city council. The council was required to either approve the ordinance or put it to a public vote. The council voted in September 2012 to pass the ordinance, then repealed it two weeks later, which avoided a public vote.

The lawsuit was filed by Reynolds and the nonprofit groups Show-Me Cannabis Regulation and American Victory Coalition. They claimed the council’s action might be technically legal but called it “an illegal attempt to circumvent the intent” of the city charter. The lawsuit also contended that council members “cannot do indirectly what (they) are forbidden from doing directly.”

Wichmer said he expected the settlement to be finalized in about 20 days.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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