Morgantown City Council voted 7-0 to modify the marijuana ordinance penalty to a flat $15 fine for possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana.
This amendment will only apply to Morgantown Police. Other departments, including University Police, West Virginia State Police and the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Department, will continue to follow state code.
“Nothing has changed since the letter that was originally put out. The University has concerns about the confusion that might come out of this,” University Police Chief W.P. Chedester said in an interview with The Dominion Post. “Nothing will change on our end because we’re dictated under state code and we enforce state code.”
In addition, Morgantown officers can use their discretion on whether to follow state or city code.
The meeting began with a public hearing section for those wishing to express support or concerns regarding the proposed marijuana ordinance. Andrew Cockburn, state chair for the West Virginia Working Families Party, was first to speak.
He directed all of those present who supported the resolution to stand. About half the council chamber stood up.
The Daily Athenaeum contacted Cockburn about his party and its support for the bill. The West Virginia Working Families Party is a political organization that supports candidates throughout West Virginia. Cockburn said the party has come out in support of the proposed ordinance, as they believe that marjuana laws in the United States are used to oppress low-income people and minorities.
“I hope [WVU students] understand that WVU has been opposed to this,” Wendell said. “WVU police can still arrest you [for cannabis possession]. If you’re a WVU person, you need to work with them to change that. This is not the end of a process; it is the beginning.”
In addition to the marijuana ordinance, city council voted on a resolution revising rules and regulations for the fire civil service commission providing residency requirements and a holiday leave calendar for the department for 2020, which both passed unanimously.
Deputy Mayor Rachel Fetty said the ordinances were part of a good faith effort by the council to ensure that firefighters have the resources they need, and are able to stay safe. Many local firefighters were in attendance.
The council also passed ordinances such as an approval of a location for a new kayak rental shop.
Other public speakers also commented on the harsh penalties currently imposed for marijuana possession under state law.
Councilman Barry Lee Wendell said he is in favor of further pushing the city toward decriminalization.