Missouri: New Marijuana Law Takes Effect In St. Louis
By Steve Elliott
If you get caught with a small amount of marijuana in St. Louis, you'll get a summons like a traffic ticket instead of being charged under the more severe state law.
The new law, which took effect on Saturday, was sponsored by Alderman Shane Cohn, who said he thinks smoking pot is a bad health decision, reports KMOX.
"I think my message is always 'Just say no," Cohn said. "I think I've made it perfectly clear that I've never even smoked cigarettes, let alone marijuana."
Cohn said the decriminalization law is just an attempt to "streamline city processes."
"This isn't something that's radical," Cohn said. "This is being done in other parts of the state of Missouri."
The ordinance doesn’t define "small amount," which will largely be left up to the interpretation of police officers, reports Nicholas J.C. Pistor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The police department is expected to have a written policy on handling such matters.
8th Ward Alderman Stephen Conway noted that offenders would now wind up with a ticket. In the past, he said, many of them were being let go without any formal legal charge at all. “In a way, this actually reintroduces a penalty,” Conway said in April.
But John Payne, executive director of the pro-legalization group Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, said he was happy with the vote and hoped it would lead to legalization in Missouri. “The state has some of the most draconian laws in the nation,” Payne said.
Under Missouri law, first offenders caught with from one gram to 35 grams of marijuana are charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. A second offense for possession of more than 35 grams is considered a felony, and carries stiffer punishment.
Alderman Sam Moore claimed the new lenient pot law is a step in the wrong direction.
"I think we are lowering the bar and it is just an avenue to begin to legalize marijuana in the state of Missouri and the city of St. Louis," Moore claimed.
"You start with marijuana and then it gets boring and you start doing something else and something else so it's just another start and it's against my religion," said Moore, who sounds suspiciously as if he doesn't know what he's talking about.
(Photo: The Daily Chronic)