ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones signed a bill this week that eliminates penalties for possessing 35 grams or less of marijuana. The legislation prohibits police from enforcing state and federal laws related to the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The smell or presence of marijuana can no longer be the only probable cause for a search or arrest.
Supporters say marijuana laws have had a history of disproportionally harming poor communities and African Americans.
“This is about building public trust,” said St. Louis Alderman Brandon Bosley, one of the bill’s sponsors. “Enough of this war on individuals who don’t have the means to defend themselves from the federal government.”
During a bill signing ceremony Monday, Alderman Bret Narayan, sponsor of the bill said, “It will allow for our law enforcement officials to use their resources on the most pressing issues in our region. It will help with labor shortages in the city departments, and it will also help our injured first responders from falling into the pitfalls of opioid addiction.”
Earlier this year, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page signed bipartisan legislation reducing penalties for possessing 35 grams or less.
There are several statewide efforts underway to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. One of those is being led by State Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin. He is also running for St. Louis County Executive.
“I think we need statewide legalization just so we have uniformity and so nobody across the state faces the possibility of a prison sentence for marijuana possession,” said Dogan.
One bill, titled “HJR 83,” would regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol. Dogan believes police have bigger priorities than enforcing marijuana possession laws.
“Every minute that they have to spend on paperwork for a marijuana possession case, that’s time away from more serious crimes,” said Dogan.
There is also a petition effort underway to put recreational use of marijuana on the ballot in Missouri. Voters approved medical marijuana in Missouri in 2018. Recreational marijuana is legal in neighboring Illinois.