St. Louis Begins Cannabis Decriminalization Process

Earlier this week, the mayor of St. Louis autographed a measure to decriminalize cannabis possession and cannabis cultivation for adults, a provincial cannabis reform measure that comes as steps to legalize cannabis statewide across Missouri is also gaining traction.

The St. Louis cannabis bill signing comes nearly a month after the Board of Aldermen unanimously endorsed the form of cannabis legislation, which makes it law that adults 21 and older can possess up to two ounces of cannabis without encountering the civic penalty that’s currently installed.

It would also make it law that “no resources” could be allocated to fine adults for growing up to six flowering cannabis plants. Significantly, the bill only affects local cannabis policy and does not alter Missouri state laws that go on to criminalize cannabis for non-medicinal consumption.

“We are witnessing a major paradigm shift in the way our nation sees not just cannabis, but how it connects to public security, imprisonment, and economic possibility in our neighborhoods,” Mayor Tishaura Jones (D) said at a signing ceremony. “This law will help reduce racial discrepancies in our policing, make our municipality safer, and make St. Louis more competitive in employing for city positions.”

The freshly enacted cannabis policy will further allow city employees who are medicinal cannabis patients to show their state-issued ID cards “to avoid damaging employment consequences based on a positive drug test for cannabis.”

Missouri Police will also be unable to use the smell or visual existence of cannabis smoke as a basis to execute a search or arrest an individual.

Alderman Bret Narayan (D-MO), a backer of the cannabis legislation, stated that it’s “infrequent that we witness so many citizens from so many diverse backgrounds unite behind a single cause, which is precisely what we have done here in Missouri.”

“This cannabis measure expresses the clear intention of the people of St. Louis,” he stated. “It will permit for our law enforcement administrators to use their resources on more pressing concerns in our region, assist with labor shortages in our City areas, and will also help bar our injured first responders from descending into the abyss of opiate dependency.”

Backers say the cannabis legislation in Missouri is meant to construct upon the city’s earlier 2018 cannabis reform movement when legislators made it so the fine for cannabis possession would be a basic $25 fine. The new measure repeals local laws allowing for a penalty entirely.

Movements that will remain criminalized include providing cannabis to underage people, retaining excessive amounts of cannabis, and selling cannabis at a location that prohibits it.

Missouri voters backed a medicinal cannabis ballot law in 2018.

The measure signing in the city comes twelve months after the Kansas City, Missouri City Council voted to support a measure ending all fines for cannabis possession under the municipality’s local ordinaces.

In that city, Mayor Quinton Lucas (D-MO) and four local legislators filed the cannabis law, which similarly voids a condition of the Code of Ordinances specifying that possession of 35 grams or less of cannabis imposes a basic $25 fine, and more than 35 grams is punishable by a hefty $500 fine.

Earlier this summer, the City Council in Kansas City also passed a bill making it law that most government workers in Kansas City will no longer encounter pre-employment drug tests for cannabis.

In the meantime, at least two cannabis activist organizations in the state of Missouri aim to install the question of adult-use cannabis legalization before voters next year. One cannabis campaign officially debuted a signature-gathering movement at the beginning of December.

Individually, a Republican state legislator is again pushing to place cannabis legalization on the ballot. Representative Shamed Dogan (R-MO) pre-filed his joint answer last week to place a constitutional revision on legalization on the 2022 ballot. He introduced a similar measure last year, but it did not progress.

Also, earlier week, a Missouri legislator pre-filed a measure to make it so police could no longer use the scent of cannabis alone as reasoning to conduct searches of an individual’s home, vehicle, or additional private property.

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