The mayor of St. Louis on Monday signed a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession and cultivation for adults, a local reform that comes as efforts to legalize cannabis statewide in Missouri are also gaining momentum.
The St. Louis ordinance signing comes weeks after the Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the legislation, which makes it so adults 21 and older can possess up to two ounces of cannabis without facing the civil penalty that’s currently in place.
It would also make it so that “no resources” could be spent to punish adults for cultivating up to six flowering plants. Importantly, the measure only affects local policy and does not change Missouri state laws that continue to criminalize marijuana for non-medical use.
“We are seeing a major shift in the way our country sees not just marijuana, but how it connects to public safety, incarceration, and economic opportunity in our communities,” Mayor Tishaura Jones (D) said at a signing ceremony. “This law will help reduce racial disparities in our policing, make our city safer and make St. Louis more competitive in hiring for city positions.”
The newly enacted policy will further permit city employees who are medical cannabis patients to present their state-issued ID cards “to avoid adverse employer actions based on a positive drug test for marijuana.”
Police will also be prevented from using the smell or visual presence of marijuana smoke as a basis to conduct a search or arrest someone.
Alderman Bret Narayan (D), sponsor of the legislation, said that it’s “rare that we see so many people from so many different backgrounds unite around a single cause, which is exactly what we have done here.”
“This law represents the clear will of the people of St. Louis,” he said. “It will allow for our law enforcement officials to use their resources on the most pressing issues in our region, help with labor shortages in our City departments and will also help prevent our injured first responders from falling into the pitfalls of opiate addiction.”
Throwing people in jail for low-level marijuana offenses does NOT make our city safer. I am proud to sign BB132 with #STLBOA sponsors to:
✅ Repeal outdated marijuana laws
✅ Make our city more competitive in hiring
✅ Help eliminate racial disparities in our justice system pic.twitter.com/QSh1vWtVxV
— Mayor Tishaura O. Jones (@saintlouismayor) December 13, 2021
Supporters say the the legislation is meant to build upon the city’s earlier 2018 reform move, when lawmakers made it so the penalty for possession would be a $25 fine. The new law repeals local statute allowing for a penalty altogether.
Activities that will remain criminalized include providing marijuana to underage people, possessing excess cannabis and selling marijuana at a property that prohibits it.
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Missouri voters approved a medical cannabis ballot measure in 2018.
The bill signing in St. Louis comes one year after the Kansas City, Missouri City Council voted to approve an ordinance ending all penalties for marijuana possession under the municipality’s local laws.
In that city, Mayor Quinton Lucas (D) and four local lawmakers filed the cannabis measure, which similarly repeals a provision of the Code of Ordinances stipulating that possession of 35 grams or less of marijuana carries a $25 fine and more than 35 grams is punishable by a $500 fine.
In September, the City Council also approved a measure making it so most government workers in Kansas City will no longer face pre-employment drug tests for cannabis.
Meanwhile, at least two activists groups in the state are aiming to place the question of adult-use marijuana legalization before voters in 2022. One campaign officially launched signature gathering last week.
Separately, a Republican state lawmaker is again making a push to place marijuana legalization on the ballot. Rep. Shamed Dogan (R) pre-filed his joint resolution last week to place a constitutional amendment on legalization on the 2022 ballot. He introduced a similar proposal last year, but it did not advance.
Also last week, a Missouri lawmaker pre-filed a bill to make it so police could no longer use the odor of marijuana alone as justification to conduct searches of a person’s home, vehicle or other private property.
Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.