By: Cecil King
Missouri’s New Cannabis Possession Law Set To Take Effect
Two years ago in 2014 the Missouri legislature managed to pass SB 491 a revised uniform criminal code law. Attorneys, judges, legislators and advocacy groups worked eight years to develop the measure.
Governor Nixon let the bill become law without his signature citing several “drafting” errors, but on January 1, 2017 all updated provisions will be enacted.
Missouri cannabis activists and members of the Show-Me State’s National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) are pleased with the penalty reduction for possession of cannabis. The law is very limited in scope and shouldn’t be considered “decriminalization” of cannabis.
“Decriminalization means no arrest and no criminal record,” says Dan Viets, J.D., who helped author the bill and who is secretary and on the board of NORML, “but if cops choose to book you, they still can. It’s a small step, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
A first-time possession offense of 10 grams or less of marijuana will become a Class D misdemeanor and not a Class A misdemeanor.
Possession of cannabis under the Class D designation means a fine, instead of jail time. The new law imposes a fine of $250-$1,000, replacing the prior penalty of up to a year of incarceration and a fine. A conviction will still appear on a defendant’s record.
While the new law is far better than current law, the hefty fine is still very harsh. 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.
Missouri has finally joined 28 other states that have ended cannabis prohibition or replaced jail time with a fine.
Citizens in St. Louis and Columbia already have local ordinances where cannabis possession will not automatically subject a person to arrest for marijuana possession up to 35 grams.
Kansas City, with a population of 459,787, may soon join St. Louis and Columbia through the efforts of the Kansas City state chapter of NORML, or NORML KC.
On Monday, November 14, 2016, Jamie Kacz, Executive Director of the NORML KC handed in more than 4,200 signatures for a petition to decriminalize cannabis in Kansas City. Once passed by voter approval, possession of up to 35 grams will be a non-arrestable offense.
The petition signatures must pass validation before the initiative will appear on the Kansas City ballot in April 2017.
Cannabis activists across the Show-Me State have a bigger goal. They will soon begin collecting signatures state-wide for a medical marijuana initiative to establish a legal medical cannabis market in 2018.
The goal is to allow Missouri to join with 28 other states in eliminating prohibition of cannabis.