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Marijuana Decriminalization Receives Sympathetic Hearing In Jefferson City, Missouri

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show me cannabis regulation decriminalization missouri jefferson cityBy John Payne

The last day of the 2013 legislative session, the House Downsizing State Government Committee gave a very sympathetic hearing to HB 512, which would have eliminated arrest, jail time, and lifelong criminal records in most cases of possession of under 35 grams of marijuana.

I traveled down to the capitol to testify on the bill, along with Saint Louis Police Sergeant, Tea Party activist, and lobbyist Gary Wiegert and Saint Louis entrepreneur and Republican Committeeman Robert Sternberg. We met SMCR Board Chair Dan Viets there, and we all testified in favor of the bill (you can read my testimony at the end of this newsletter), along with a representative from the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.

Perhaps the most convincing testimony to the committee members came from their fellow legislators, bill sponsors Rory Ellinger (D – University City) and Chris Kelly (D – Columbia). Kelly’s testimony from his experience as a judge particularly seemed to make an impact on his colleagues. As the Columbia Daily Tribune article on the hearing reported:

Kelly told the committee it wastes officers’ time to have them processing marijuana arrests. With limited resources, officers should be working on more serious matters such as domestic violence cases, he said.

“Should we do both so badly so we do neither well?” Kelly asked. “This is one that matters the least and has phenomenal negative consequences both to the public and the individuals involved.”

If laws against marijuana are designed to deter its use, he said, there is no sign that “an almost inconceivably massive effort to deter has had any impact at all.”

No one testified against the bill, nor were any representatives outright hostile to the bill.

After the hearing, Committee Chairman Paul Curtman (R – Pacific) told the reporter that he favored the bill and wished it had been assigned earlier. And, although it didn’t end up in any of the media reports, Committee Vice Chair Mike Kelley (R – Lamar) openly stated his support for the idea before the hearing.

All of that bodes extremely well for our chances of passing major reforms in the legislature next year.However, we have to continue working hard while the legislature is out of session!

That means engaging the public and elected officials in local meetings on the subject. If you want to see a meeting on cannabis policy in your community, email me, and I will work with you to set one up! We are currently working on scheduling events in Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla, Springfield, and Saint Charles.

Scheduling, planning, promoting, and holding these events does cost time and money. I estimate each event will cost around $200 in room rental fees, promotion, and travel expenses. Please contribute now to help us meet those costs!

While we are on the subject, I had to reschedule the Saint Ann Town Hall because the library double booked its meeting room on June 3. The event is now scheduled for Thursday, June 13, at the Rock Road Branch of the Saint Louis County Library, located at 10267 Saint Charles Rock Road in Saint Ann, 63074.

Source: National Cannabis Coalitionmake a donation

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  • DT

    What about those young teenagers and 18, 19 yrs old’s having a Misdemeanor possession criminal offense on their record that is not eligible for expungement. It will follow them the rest of their life for simple possession and prevent them to pursue degrees in healthcare and so forth. We need simple possession expungement included in Missouri very narrowed offense lists available for expungement. It will free many young people from adverse effect of a single incident with marijuana.

  • Chris Kelly

    One factor that I think is relevant to the thinking of legislators who are considering various Mj bills is the extent to which people do actually go to jail/prison behind a single bust for simple possession.
    Some empirical evidence of the subject would be helpful.

    My experience on the bench suggests that almost nobody actually gets sent for simple possession. Here is what I found to be the far more frequent factual scenario: Defendant gets busted for simple misdemeanor possession. He pleads guilty. I fine him $200, put him on unsupervised probation with a small time back up. All he has to do is stay out of trouble. Defendant then gets a DWI, a bad check charge and is a respondent in a domestic order of protection. Now the probation gets revoked and he does some time; technically but not really behind the dope, but rather because of the other stuff. He is a municipal nuisance.

    I am very willing to be proven wrong on this subject. I would like to see some hard evidence regarding the frequency of MJ misdemeanor possession cases resulting in time actually served for the primary offense. It is very possible that my opinion on the subject is colored by my own sentencing pattern when on the bench. and most other judges are dissimilar. My conversations with other judges suggest that I am correct but, as I say, I am willing to be wrong.

    Remember, I am an advocate of total legalization for simple possession but do also understand the legislative mindset. On an issue like this facts may well matter.i
    Chris Kelly

    State Rep,
    Columbia, MO

  • I moved to Springfield, MO to be close to my daughter but here I am a criminal. I was a medical cannabis licensed user, payed taxes on my medication and was fully regulated by the state of NM one of the best examples of the program I have seen yet. I just wish I didn’t have to feel like a criminal to get pain relief…I can not be on narcotics with the amount of pain I am in….it just doesn’t work…..plus I need those strong drugs for end of life treatment… for a person in Chronic pain to use opiates everyday is very very bad treatment for the quality of life you get! I would love to testify to that!