St. Louis Aldermen Lower Pot Possession Penalties to Traffic Violations

Fines Faced Up to $500

Yahoo Contributor Network

Starting June 1, those caught with 35 grams or less of marijuana within the city limits of St. Louis could be punished with the severity of a traffic ticket. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen voted 22-3 in favor of reducing the penalties for possession of small amounts of pot to $100 to $500 and up to 90 days in jail. Ald. Shane Cohn, who introduced the ordinance earlier this year, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the bill "doesn't legalize marijuana, but it gives fairness."

* Under current Missouri law, the first time someone is caught with small amounts of marijuana it is a misdemeanor with fines up to $1,000 and a year in jail. A second offense results in a felony. In St. Louis, small amounts of pot can be placed in municipal court at the discretion of law enforcement officers.

* The ordinance passed the board of aldermen. However, it still needs to be signed by Mayor Francis Slay. The mayor called the proposal "worth exploring" at a fundraiser in early February, according to the Riverfront Times. Slay is expected to sign the legislation.

* The bill had the support of law enforcement and local prosecutors. Slay believes the focus of St. Louis' resources should be violent offenders instead of recreational pot users caught with small amounts of the drug. Still, Slay was not for full legalization because he feels it "sends a bad message" to citizens.

* John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, told the Post-Dispatch he hopes the move eventually leads to statewide legalization of marijuana.

* Show-Me Cannabis was on hand to witness the final vote. A party is planned for Saturday at a local establishment to celebrate the vote.

* Cohn told KMOX he wanted the ordinance to be "equitable" for citizens of St. Louis. He also believed in creating "efficiencies" within the city's government.

* Justice agencies in the city believe the ordinance will free up more resources to combat more serious crimes. Offenders with 35 grams or less of marijuana won't be handcuffed in squad cars anymore.

* Ald. Joe Viccarro, Ward 23, voted against the proposal calling marijuana a "gateway drug" for kids "under a lot of peer pressure." The lawmaker told KMOX he felt some "bad decisions" start with pot and then get more serious.

* Tom Villa and Sam Moore also voted no on the ordinance. The St. Louis Board of Aldermen is made up of representatives from 28 wards. Cohn will be sworn in for another term as alderman Tuesday night.

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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