Missouri Lawmaker Files Bill To Decriminalize Low-Level Drug Possession
A Missouri lawmaker on Tuesday filed a bill to decriminalize a range of drugs including marijuana, psilocybin, LSD, MDMA and cocaine.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Peter Merideth (D), would amend state statute by making low-level possession of various drugs punishable by a maximum $100 fine or “participation in a treatment program” if approved by a court, or both.
Currently, possessing any amount of the controlled substances except marijuana is considered a class D felony that carries up to seven years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
The bill lays out the specific possession amounts that would be decriminalized: up to 10 grams of cannabis, one gram of heroin, one gram of MDMA, two grams of methamphetamine, 40 units of LSD, 12 grams of psilocybin, 40 units of methadone, 40 oxycodone pills and two grams of cocaine.
Possessing up to 10 grams of marijuana under current law is a misdemeanor but does not come with the threat of jail time, a policy that advocates often refer to as decriminalization even though it’s technically still a crime. The new legislation would formally reclassify the offense—as well as those for having small amounts of the other drugs—as an infraction.
The proposal also reduces penalties for higher possession levels for those controlled substances. For example, possessing more than one gram but less than three grams of heroin would be considered a class A misdemeanor.
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Missouri law currently stipulates that marijuana possession of up to 10 grams is a class D misdemeanor. The new bill further proposes to eliminate language that makes it so a person with a prior drug conviction would face a more serious class A misdemeanor for low-level cannabis possession.
The measure’s introduction comes one week after a Republican Missouri lawmaker filed a separate bill to give residents with serious illnesses legal access to a range of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, ibogaine and LSD through an expanded version of the state’s existing right-to-try law.
That marked the second time that Rep. Michael Davis (R) has filed the legislation, which he says will align Missouri statute with federal right-to-try law which was “passed by a conservative majority in Congress and signed by President Trump in 2018.”
Also in Missouri, another Republican lawmaker is again making a push to place marijuana legalization on the ballot. But some activists aren’t waiting on the legislature to take action to refer the issue to voters, with one campaign officially launching signature gathering last month for a separate reform initiative.
Rep. Shamed Dogan (R) recently pre-filed his joint resolution to place a constitutional amendment on legalization on the 2022 ballot. He introduced a similar proposal last year, but it did not advance.
Under the lawmaker’s plan, adults 21 and older could purchase, possess and cultivate cannabis for personal use. It does not specify allowable amounts.
Separately, the group New Approach Missouri, which successfully got a medical cannabis initiative passed by voters in 2018, announced last summer its plans to put the reform proposal on the ballot through its new campaign committee Legal Missouri 2022.
The organization tried to place the issue of legalization before voters in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed that effort.
Despite the health crisis, activists managed to collect 80,000 raw signatures within months, though they needed 160,199 valid signatures to qualify.
A separate campaign, Fair Access Missouri, is separately exploring multiple citizen initiatives with the hopes of getting at least one on the ballot next year. Three of the four would create a system of legalized cannabis sales for adults 21 and older, while another would simply amend the state’s existing medical marijuana program.
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