SAINT LOUIS, MISSOURI – 01/14/2013 – On Friday, Saint Louis alderman Shane Cohn introduced a bill to reform the way law enforcement in the city handles the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Cohn’s proposal would allow the city to ticket people for marijuana possession instead of charging them under state law. If convicted of possession of marijuana under state law, an individual would receive a criminal record that can impede his ability to receive federal student aid, find employment, or even rent an apartment.
“It is way past due for our government to review the way we address our war on drugs and the issues of fairness, equity, and efficiency that accompany it,” Alderman Cohn explained. “We could create more public resources — with additional funding going to mental health services for people struggling with drug abuse and addiction — through the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana. Hopefully, through example, we can start a public dialogue in the State of Missouri that will lead toward more progressive policies around the usage of marijuana.”
Show-Me Cannabis Regulation Executive Director — and Saint Louis City resident — John Payne welcomed the proposed reform. “Every minute a police officer spends arresting someone for the possession of marijuana is a minute that they are not protecting the people of this city from violence and property crimes. The threat of arrest and a criminal record is far more dangerous to cannabis users than the substance itself, and those legal sanctions have fallen most forcefully upon low income individuals and people of color. We hope this proposal will begin to right those wrongs.”
Show-Me Cannabis Regulation has been working with Progress with Liberty, a new Saint Louis public advocacy group, to launch a campaign to decriminalize the possession of marijuana in the city. On Friday, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation published a policy brief written as part of that collaboration, which can be read here:
The brief explains that Saint Louis already operates under a de facto policy of decriminalization, and argues that the city should formalize that policy through a municipal law similar to the one approved by voters in Columbia, Missouri in 2004.
Other cities in the region that have decriminalized possession of a small amount of cannabis include Eureka Springs, Arkansas; Carbondale, Chicago, Evanston, Springfield, and Urbana, Illinois; and Lawrence, Kansas. Fourteen states have decriminalized cannabis possession, including the nearby states of Ohio, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Mississippi.
Show-Me Cannabis Regulation is an association of organizations and individuals, who believe that cannabis prohibition is a failed policy, and regulating and taxing cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol would better control the production, distribution and consumption of cannabis than the criminal market does. The group seeks to engage Missourians in a serious, public discussion about the issues associated with marijuana consumption, including medical cannabis, industrial hemp, public safety, and financial analysis in order to address problems associated with the current, failed policy.