By: Cecil King
Cannabis Legalization Bill Introduced in St. Louis City
Greater St. Louis National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws’ (NORML) Executive Director Karin Spinks Chester engaged in a congratulatory embrace with Alderwoman Megan-Ellyia Green moments after Green submitted a history making cannabis legalization bill on October 26, 2017 to the St. Louis City Board of Aldermen.
The proposed legislation was assigned bill number 180 and aims to legalize cannabis possession for adults 21 and older to possess up to 56 grams (2.0 ounces) and allow private individual cultivation of up to 10 plants.
Public consumption is banned and openly displaying cannabis on city streets, alleys and sidewalks, and within 1,000 feet of schools or daycare facilities is prohibited. Private business and property owners can ban cannabis usage on their premise.
All the state and local laws pertaining to driving under the influence (DUI) have not changed. If an officer pulls you over and finds cannabis on your seat or dashboard, you could face possession charges. For St. Louis residents, transporting under two ounces of cannabis should be done out of sight in a trunk or locked glove box.
Private cultivation of up to ten cannabis plants is allowed in the bill’s present form. This compares favorably to Colorado’s newly passed HB 1220 which increases recreational plant cultivation to 12 plants on January 1, 2018. No sales or distribution of cannabis is allowed under the St. Louis legislation.
Green’s proposed legislation, which is in direct opposition to some of Missouri state laws on cannabis, uses the city’s legal prerogative to prioritize law enforcement activities that best utilize the city’s limited resources. Prosecutors, elected officials and law enforcement in Harris County, Texas, implemented a similar policy on petty cannabis possession cases on March 1, 2017.
Misdemeanor cannabis offenders in Harris county with less than four ounces of marijuana will not be arrested, ticketed or required to appear in court if they agree to take a four-hour drug education class.
Harris county District Attorney Kim Ogg said the county has spent $25 million a year for the past 10 years locking up people for having less than 4 ounces of marijuana. She said those resources would be better spent arresting serious criminals such as burglars, robbers and rapists. Harris county will reclaim more than $25 million per year previously spent on arresting and prosecuting cannabis possession cases.
“We absolutely support Green in this effort to reform antiquated and ineffective marijuana laws,” said Chester, and “we encourage all citizens of St. Louis to contact their alderperson to support this important legislation.”
Alderwoman Green met with Greater St. Louis NORML Board of Directors during the crafting of the bill and spoke to Chapter members in September about the measure. “It’s important that our legislators listen to their constituents on important legislative bills like BB 180,” continued Chester, “because people are ready for this type of legislation and we can support them to obtain passage.”
Presiding President of the Board of Aldermen, Lewis Reed accepted the legislation and immediately assigned it to the Legislation Committee. Shortly after the announcement Committee Chairman Joe Vaccaro told local news media “the bill doesn’t have a chance to pass,” before calling to order any formal hearing with his committee members.
Cannabis activists and concerned citizens throughout St. Louis are organizing to educate the prohibitionist lawmakers and correct the negative media reports that are attempting to sidetrack the bill.
The legislative process for Bill 180 could end later this year and become law shortly thereafter upon passage. The bill will require 15 yeas from supporting alders. In the present draft version, the bill would not need a public vote to become law. Amendments to the bill are possible as it navigates through the committee and bill perfection process.
Cannabis activists and concerned citizens in the city of St. Louis are urged to contact their ward aldermen to show their support for the proposed legislation. Local cannabis activists, along with cannabis supporters statewide and nationally are praising Alder Green’s cannabis legalization efforts and the bill’s introduction has been reported in cannabis media outlets nationwide.