Sensible marijuana bills stall despite public support
Two bills that would have improved Missouri's marijuana policies died in committee without getting a vote during the 2013 legislative session. House Bill 688, introduced by Rep. Mike Colona, would have removed criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana for seriously ill patients with their doctors' recommendations. Meanwhile, House Bill 512, introduced by Rep. Rory Ellinger, would have reduced penalties for possession of marijuana for adults. Neither of these bills advanced during the session, largely due to the efforts of Missouri Speaker of the House, Rep. Timothy Jones, who prevented the bills from moving forward.
Despite the fact that legislative leadership stood in the way of these bills receiving a vote, Missourians are ready for a change. In a poll conducted in March by Show Me Cannabis, residents favored legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana by a margin of 54-44% when the proposed system was explained.
In April 2013, St. Louis took an important step in addressing the government’s failed war on marijuana when Mayor Francis Slay signed the city’s first marijuana decriminalization ordinance. The ordinance reduced penalties for possession of up to 35 grams (or 1 ¼ ounces) of marijuana, dropping it from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction in most cases. The law went into effect June 1, 2013.
Marijuana laws in Missouri
Missouri has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country, despite studies which indicate that stiff penalties do not result in lesser use. Possession of any amount of marijuana — even as little as a gram — can be punished by up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine under state law. Possession of over 35 grams — about 1.25 ounces — is a felony subject to a prison sentence of up to seven years and a $5,000 fine.
In 2011, Missouri arrested over 20,000 individuals for marijuana-related offenses, 91% of which were for possession. During the same year, 86% of reported burglaries — including home invasions — and 87% of motor vehicle thefts went unsolved by law enforcement. In addition to marijuana prohibition diverting police from more serious crime, it’s also been unevenly enforced between races. For instance, did you know that African-Americans are 2.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though blacks and whites consume marijuana at similar rates? For more information on how the war on marijuana consumers is often waged unequally, check out the ACLU’s recent report. And, if you agree Missouri should take marijuana off the criminal market, legalize it for adults 21 and older, and tax and regulate it similarly to alcohol, tell your state representative and senator today!
Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project and all of our allies. If you have any questions concerning the status of marijuana policy reform in Missouri, you can contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To receive news about Missouri marijuana policy reform as it happens, be sure to subscribe to MPP's free legislative alert service, if you haven't done so already.