The mayor of St. Louis on Monday signed a bill to decriminalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults.
This signing comes a few weeks after the Board of Aldermen unanimously approved the legislation, which allows adults of 21 years and older to possess up to two ounces of cannabis without having to face the civil penalty that’s currently in place.
The law also contains a provision that no resources could be spent to punish adults for cultivating up to six flowering plants. However, the measure only affects local policy and does not change Missouri state laws that continue to criminalize the use of marijuana for non-medical purposes.
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Nevertheless, the signing of the ordinance is an indication of people’s changed attitude towards cannabis legalization and the increased support for it in Missouri.
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✅ Repeal outdated marijuana laws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
Tishaura Jones (D), the mayor of St. Louis, said at the signing ceremony that people were witnessing a major shift in the way their country was seeing not just marijuana, but also how it connected to public safety, incarceration, and economic opportunity in their communities.
She added that the law would help reduce racial disparities in policing, and would make St. Louis safer and more competitive in hiring for city positions.
The new policy will permit city employees, who are medical cannabis patients, to present their state-issued ID cards so that they will not become liable to punishment by their employers if they tested positive for marijuana. Police will also be prevented from using the smell or visual presence of marijuana smoke as a basis to search or arrest someone.
Alderman Bret Narayan (D), the sponsor of the legislation, said that it was rare to see so many people from diverse backgrounds unite around a single cause, as had happened in this case.
According to him, the new law represents the will of the people of St. Louis and will allow law enforcement officials to use their resources on the pressing issues in the region, like labor shortages in the City departments, and will also help prevent injured first responders from getting addicted to opium.
Supporters of the legislation say that it is meant to improve upon the city’s earlier 2018 reforms move when the penalty for cannabis possession was reduced from the original $100 – $500 range to $25. The new law is designed to improve it further.
However, activities like providing cannabis to underage people, possessing it in prohibited quantities, and selling it in areas where it is banned will continue to remain criminalized.
The signing of the bill 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 had filed a cannabis measure, to repeal 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.
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In September, the City Council also approved a measure that freed government workers in Kansas City from pre-employment drug tests for cannabis. Besides these, two activist groups in the state are planning to place the question of adult-use marijuana legalization before voters in 2022.
One campaign officially launched a signature gathering last week. In another move, a Republican state lawmaker, Rep. Shamed Dogan (R), pre-filed a joint resolution last week to place a constitutional amendment on marijuana legalization on the 2022 ballot.
He had introduced a similar proposal last year, but it did not move forward. Further, last week, a Missouri lawmaker pre-filed a bill that carries a provision that police cannot use the odor of marijuana alone as justification for conducting searches on a person’s home, vehicle, or other properties.