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City council tables pot cultivation ordinance

The Columbia City Council voted Monday night to table an ordinance that would decriminalize marijuana cultivation.

The ordinance is tabled for four months, to allow the Substance Abuse Advisory Commission and the city’s Board of Health to review it and make recommendations to city leaders.

Right now, medical marijuana is legal in Columbia, but growing it is not.

If the ordinance is passed, a seriously ill person would be allowed to cultivate up to six of their own plants.

Those without a prescription caught growing up to six plants would receive a fine of $250 rather than a felony charge.

The ordinance also directs police to take offenders to municipal court before taking them to state court.

The ordinance was tabled after several minutes of discussion among council members by a 5-2 vote.

After the vote, members of the public were allowed to give their testimony, for or against the ordinance.

Deborah Harden, who has stage four cancer, stood before council to testify why she thinks the ordinance should be passed.

“When I started using cannabis oil – I’ll tell you this. I started gaining weight. I started walking again,” Harden said. “But my doctor said I had to go out-of-state to get it, which seems even more criminal. I’m not a criminal.”

While most of the 13 people who testified were for the ordinance, a few were against it. Like Heather Harlan, a prevention specialist for Phoenix Programs.

“The passage of this ordinance would send a clear message – that we don’t think there’s anything dangerous associated with this drug,” Harlan said. “And levels of use will rise.”

The ordinance is scheduled to be voted on by council around August.

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