St. Louis Board of Aldermen Vote to Reduce Penalties for Marijuana Possession, Jail Still an Option (UPDATED)


Credit: smokershighlife / / CC BY-NC-SA


Today, Reason 24/7 picked up some interesting news on marijuana from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Board of Aldermen of St. Louis, Mo. voted yesterday to reduce penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The bill was introduced by Alderman Shane Cohn in January and has the support of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's office. A spokesman for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said that the mayor intends to sign the bill unless a "legal flaw" is found. If signed the ordinance would go into effect on June 1.

While the ordinance is a step in the right direction jail time could still be handed down to those caught with small amounts of marijuana (which is not defined). From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The penalty for a violation of the new city ordinance would be a $100-$500 fine and up to 90 days in jail. The ordinance doesn't define small amount, which will largely be left up to the interpretation of police officers. The police department is expected to have a written policy on handling such matters.

It should worry residents of St. Louis that police officers will decide what will constitute a small amount of marijuana. That the ordinance allows for those caught with a small amount of marijuana to spend time in jail is also worrying.

Rhode Island's marijuana decriminalization law does not leave jail time as an option for those caught with less than an ounce of marijuana. While Rhode Island's legislation is far from ideal it at least does not leave the amount of marijuana that should be permitted to the discretion of police officers. 

The majority of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, and the Congressional Research Service has said recently that states do have the power to legalize marijuana. 


John Payne, who is the Executive-Director of Show-Me Cannabis Regulation, has emailed me to point out that the Post-Dispatch story linked to in the above post incorrectly referred to an earlier draft of the bill. The bill that was voted on does NOT allow for the possibility of jail time. The Penalty Clause of the bill that passed reads as follows:

Any person violating this Ordinance shall be subject to a fine of not less than one hundred dollars and not more than five hundred dollars. There is a strong presumption that the proper disposition of any such case is to suspend the imposition of sentence and/or require community service work and/or drug counseling and education.

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  1. This ordinance is shitty, too much discretion for the pigs.

    I prefer Killadelphia’s much better. It’s a civil violation every time, no occifer discretion. Write a ticket and be on your way.

  2. up to police discretion?

    what could possible go wrong with that?

  3. my neighbor’s mom makes $69 an hour on the computer. She has been out of a job for 9 months but last month her check was $13517 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more here


    I really don’t think a bunch of losers showing up to get stoned is going to help the pro legalization side very much.

    1. All too often the case, the pro legalization side is way too often a bunch of losers/people who promote a bad image. We need more soccer moms/dads, etc.

      Also, the law here in WA does NOT allow public smoking of MJ and it does not benefit the cause to have people doing same willy nilly since it plays into the hands of the anti’s.

      1. The biggest obstacle to marijuana legalization is the majority of the people who support it. They are one step above Juggalos.

        1. My point is imho it’s not the majority, it’s the VOCAL majority – iow the ones who speak out. There are tons of soccer mom, heck grandmas, responsible business owners, people with jobs and families etc. etc. who are pro-legalization and many of them are also smokers themselves. I mean we got a MAJORITY of the vote to pass this law. Most of these people are not nimrods. But man, the “public face” of marijuana legalization flirts with full retard.

          I managed to convince (or at least they said they voted for it – but these are honest people imo) some of my hypersquare Mormon friends to vote for it. They don’t smoke, and would make great spokespeople for the cause.

      2. “We need more soccer moms/dads, etc.”

        I don’t think the Hakkens will be able to make it. The example made of them won’t encourage other parents, either.

  5. Yea, if it’s going to be ANYTHING, it should be a civil infraction, not a crime. But, it shouldn’t be unlawful at all – thank God here in WA state we are enlightened and legalized it

    1. we are enlightened

      Dude, Dunphy, stop. You live in WA state, you are not surrounded by enlightened people.

  6. I am happy to say that it looks like I may actually have been wrong about marijuana’s place in the drug war. (I always like being wrong because I tend towards pessimism which means if I’m right, it’s going to suck).

    So far, it really does look like only marijuana is getting a relaxing, which is a good thing.

    1. By a good thing, I really meant “at least marijuana” is getting a relaxing.

      1. I took metric assloads of heat here for opining that the passage of legal MJ in WA was a sea change and we were going to see a complete change in federal attitude. So far, so good, but the distribution channels haven’t been set up so it still could turn awry once that happens. But I am optimistic it won’t and the feds will leave well enough alone

        1. It seems to be a runaway train… well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves… it seems to be a runaway horse at the state level right now.

          We’ll see what happens when the Biden administration takes over in 2016.

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