Missouri Alderwoman Megan Green is introducing an ordinance in St. Louis to prevent the use of city resources to enforce laws prohibiting the use of marijuana. Specifically, the ordinance would:
- Prohibit city police and other officials from using city resources to enforce marijuana prohibition against adults; and
- Continue to enforce marijuana prohibition laws against minors and those who provide marijuana to minors.
Alderwoman Green said, “We’ve come to a point as a country, and as a city, where marijuana usage is not taboo in the way that it used to be.”
And people across Missouri are beginning to agree.
Earlier this year, voters in Kansas City approved a measure to reduce the penalties for simple possession of marijuana, amending local laws regarding possession of up to 35 grams of marijuana for adults age 21 and older from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil offense punishable by a $25 fine.
Also in Missouri, there is a citizen initiative to place a measure on the 2018 ballot that would implement a medical marijuana program. New Approach Missouri is leading the campaign. Please visit their website to get involved.
MPP worked closely with Alderwoman Green and others allies in St. Louis to provide guidance on the details of the proposed ordinance and we thank her for being a leader on this issue.
With all of this local government involvement and citizen-initiated activity, let’s not forget that Missouri’s legislature is at a standstill. If you are a Missouri resident, please tell your state representatives to move forward with improving the state’s marijuana policies.
On April 24, the Missouri House and Senate passed a bill that would eliminate the possibility of jail time for people caught with up to 10 grams of marijuana — at least the first time. The bill, SB 491, was sent to Gov. Jay Nixon for his signature on April 28. He has until May 13 to sign the bill or veto it.
Nearly half a million Missouri residents already live in cities, including St. Louis and Columbia, which have local ordinances that treat possession of 35 grams or less as a non-arrestable offense.
SB 491 isn’t the only marijuana-related bill on the move.
Earlier this month, SB 951 passed out of committee; it may soon receive a vote in the Senate. While far from perfect, it would allow a broad range of severely ill patients to use medical marijuana products that include THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. A second, very limited bill, HB 2238, would allow some patients to access CBD-rich cannabis oil with trace amounts of THC. It passed both houses and will be sent to Gov. Nixon for his signature. For an overview of the bill, click here.
The Missouri Legislature made significant progress this year to improve marijuana-related laws, due in large part to the hard work from groups like Show-Me Cannabis.
The Board of Aldermen, the law-making body of St. Louis, Missouri, voted 22 to 3 in favor of reducing the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana in the city to that of a traffic ticket.
Introduced earlier this year by Alderman Shane Cohn, the law gives police officers the option to redistribute some marijuana cases to the municipal court system, essentially making a criminal infraction a municipal offense.
Due to the absence of local marijuana laws in St. Louis, police charge offenders under the severe state laws.
"[Missouri] has some of the most draconian laws in the nation," John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The ordinance reduces the penalty to a $100 to $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
The policy goes into effect June 1.
According to the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, Sgt. Gary Wiegert, a 32-year veteran of the St. Louis police force (SLMPD) and former Show-Me Cannabis lobbyist, is suing the department for violating his first amendment rights.
The phrase “lobbyist activities in Jefferson City” did not raise any eyebrows last month when Sgt. Wiegert filled out the necessary forms to work a second job. However, after word of Sgt. Wiegert’s off-duty activities spread, the SLMPD rescinded its permission.
The police veteran was told that he would need to obtain a business license if he wished to continue lobbying for the marijuana reform organization. Interestingly enough, the department took no issue with Sgt. Wiegert’s politicking three years ago when he began working for the St. Louis Tea Party.
Sgt. Wiegert’s attorney, Albert Watkins, alleges that his client’s superiors further infringed on his free speech rights when they issued a verbal “gag order” last Friday, requesting that he refrain from making any political statements until they could meet to discuss his lobbying.
Seeking a court injunction to prevent officials from quieting Sgt. Wiegert, Watkins filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court against the city’s Board of Police Commissioners and its five members.
“Gary Wiegert is not advocating that anybody break the law,” stated Watkins. “He is advocating as a lobbyist for an organization that wants to create a new law ... and that falls soundly within his First Amendment constitutional rights.”
Sgt. Wiegert is not alone in his advocacy. On February 7, multiple lawmakers co-sponsored a bill that would reform Missouri marijuana possession penalties, which are currently some of the strictest in the nation. More recently, Rep. Mike Colona (D-St. Louis) sponsored legislation that would allow patients with debilitating conditions to use and possess marijuana for medical purposes if their doctors recommend it.