St. Louis Alderman Aims to Curb City’s Marijuana Arrests

Lesser Marijuana Amounts Similar to City Traffic Ticket

Yahoo Contributor Network

According to St. Louis Alderman Shane Cohn, his new ordinance regarding possession of marijuana in the city is aimed at alleviating "the overstressed police and prosecutorial resources that are... overwhelmingly burdened." The St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted the local politician who plans to introduce the ordinance on Friday.

* Under Cohn's proposal, anyone caught with small amounts of marijuana would face penalties similar to a traffic ticket. The penalty of violating the ordinance, if passed, would be fines of $100 to $500 and up to 90 days in jail.

* Current state laws make possessing 35 grams or less of marijuana a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail . Fines can be up to $1,000.

* The Post-Dispatch article explains Cohn believes stricter state laws on marijuana possession place the financial burden on city residents who pay taxes for law enforcement. As a home rule city in Missouri, St. Louis can pass whatever laws it wants to as long as they don't conflict with state law.

* St. Louis cannot legalize marijuana on its own. However, it can modify penalties for marijuana use in line with state laws as the city sees fit. Columbia, Mo., has a similar ordinance. Springfield, Mo., attempted to lighten marijuana laws by an initiative petition before city leaders rejected the proposal.

* KMOX reveals Cohn also believes the ordinance provides "relief for the citizens of St. Louis who ... can't afford a felony conviction on their record." The proposal applies to anyone from outside the city who has a prescription for medical marijuana.

* The new law would not define a "small amount" of marijuana. That interpretation will be up to law enforcement officials.

* City leaders are at least open to the idea of less stringent marijuana laws in St. Louis. KTVI reports Mayor Francis Slay posted an informal poll on his website regarding this issue. Debate surrounding Cohn's proposal is expected to be heated as public discussions continue.

* The Post-Dispatch reveals Cohn worked with circuit attorneys, law enforcement and the prosecutor's office to draft the legislation. Ultimately, it would be up to police officers whether or not to enforce any new city ordinances or follow state law.

* John Payne, who leads the group Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, told the newspaper the city of St. Louis has been making fewer marijuana-related arrests over the past few years. The proposed ordinance would "formalize that policy."

* Cohn represents the 25th Ward in St. Louis , which covers Carondelet, Dutchtown and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods. The next Board of Aldermen meeting is 10 a.m. Friday.

William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.

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