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Lighting up Joplin

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 12, 2009 - The tiny Joplin suburb of Cliff Village has legalized marijuana in small amounts when prescribed by a doctor for medical reasons. But don't start smoking dope in Cliff Village. The sheriff, Ken Copeland, says anyone with marijuana will be his "guest" in jail as long as state law prohibits possession of marijuana.

Cliff Village got the attention of the Kansas City Star just about the time that the Obama administration was announcing that it would not use federal anti-drug resources to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that permit medical marijuana. 

But the Obama administration's new policy would not seem to apply to Missouri or Cliff Village because state law still make marijuana illegal.

Joe Blundell, the 30-year-old mayor of Cliff Village, promoted the new law permitting medical marijuana after he found the drug helped him function after a train accident. With the help of his father, who is also on the village council, the council passed the bill 3-2. Only about 50 people live in Cliff Village.

Blundell says he's not going to risk smoking dope, now that publicity has raised his public profile. He says the ordinance is symbolic.

Michigan became the 13th state to legalize medical marijuana. Federal drug agents recently raided medical marijuana facilities in California, but the Obama administration says he plans to discontinue such raids after it has put a new leadership team in place at the DEA.

William H. Freivogel is director of the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a professor at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. Previously, he worked for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 34 years, serving as assistant Washington Bureau Chief and deputy editorial editor. He covered the U.S. Supreme Court while in Washington. He is a graduate of Kirkwood High School, Stanford University and Washington University Law School. He is a member of the Missouri Bar.

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