Back in 2014, Missouri lawmakers enacted SB 491 — a bill to reduce penalties for possessing up to 10 grams of marijuana. That law finally took effect on January 1, 2017. Congratulations to Missouri for joining the 20 other states that have ended cannabis prohibition or replaced jail time with a fine! The new law institutes a fine of $250-$1,000, replacing the prior penalty of up to a year of incarceration and a fine.
While this is far better than current law, the hefty fine is still very harsh for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol. Worse yet, possession of over 35 grams remains a felony, subjecting marijuana consumers to a prison sentence of up to seven years and a $5,000 fine.
While lawmakers should be applauded for enacting marijuana reduction penalties, we hope you will let them know that the time to end prohibition is now. If you are a Missouri resident, please send an email to your state representative and senator and tell them you want to tax and regulate a substance that is safer than alcohol.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon made Missouri history by allowing the state to join the ranks of 18 others that have eliminated the possibility of jail time for the possession of marijuana. The new law made several significant reforms to the state’s criminal laws, including protecting people caught with up to 10 grams from incarceration for choosing a substance that is safer than alcohol.
The governor decided not to sign SB 491, instead allowing it to become effective without his signature. In addition to “decriminalizing” simple possession of marijuana, this new law also reduces possible sentences related to the sale and cultivation of marijuana, including the current ban on probation or parole for those with 3rd felony offenses.
Unfortunately, the law is somewhat limited. It will not take effect until January 1, 2017, and the protections against jail time only apply to people without prior marijuana convictions. Also, a possession charge — even without the possibility of jail time — is still a crime and can mark a person for life, affecting housing, employment, and future employment opportunities.
Nonetheless, this represents several major improvements, and now statewide law is beginning to reflect those of both St. Louis and Columbia, which previously decriminalized possession of up to 35 grams of cannabis.
MPP wishes to thank Missouri attorney and activist Dan Viets and Show-Me Cannabis for their strong contributions to the new law!
On Wednesday, Rep. Chris Kelly introduced HB 1659, which would end the prohibition of marijuana in Missouri. The bill, similar to the law currently in effect in Colorado, would allow adults to possess, use, and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana with no penalty. It would also set up a taxed and regulated market for marijuana cultivation and sale.
Marijuana prohibition has been just as ineffective, inefficient, and problematic as alcohol prohibition. Poll after poll after poll has shown that Americans are ready for a new, more sensible approach. By regulating adult use, the state can replace the underground market, and let law enforcement focus on serious crime. It’s time for a better approach in the Show Me State. If you are a Missouri resident, please support Rep. Kelly’s efforts and ask your senator and representative to end the destruction caused by marijuana prohibition in Missouri.
Meanwhile, another bill has also been introduced and represents a step in the right direction. Sen. Jolie Justus introduced SB 491, which would establish a new class of low-level offense for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Individuals would not be forced to spend time in jail, and fines would be limited from their current levels.