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St. Louis city bill would reduce marijuana penalties

7:31 PM, Jan 10, 2013   |    comments
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ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - A St. Louis city alderman wants to decrease the penalty for possessing a small amount of marijuana.

Alderman Shane Cohn's bill would make procession of a small amount of pot a municipal violation instead of a state violation.

Under the proposed bill, a violation would result in a $100 to $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail. State and federal laws would still apply for possession of amounts more than 35 grams.

Cohn said, "My goal is to basically create an environment of equity and fairness for the citizens of St. Louis, but also looking at efficiency in government. The circuit courts for the city of St. Louis are some of the busiest courts in the entire state of Missouri. And in addition to that our police resources are very precious. I don't think folks understand the amount of time it takes to process someone. It takes that officer off the street and out of circulation while they're taking care of that."

The bill also includes exemptions for people with valid medical prescriptions for marijuana.

Officials at NCADA-St. Louis, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, say they would not necessarily oppose such a measure, but only if it came with certain conditions.

Dan Duncan, Director of Community Services for NCADA-St. Louis, said, "If we de-criminalize pot, the way this is being suggested, there's still a consequence to be paid for possession and use of marijuana, we will still go after those who traffic in it, and it is still something that is reserved for an adult brain. That's where we fall down, I think. As a culture we don't do a good enough job protecting our youth from alcohol or any other drugs."

Duncan said such a measure should provide for resources to go towards prevention and education campaigns.

"One of the problems with marijuana," said Duncan, "despite what many users will have you believe, is that for some people marijuana is just the beginning. They do, by virtue of being introduced to this drug, go on to other drugs. And sometimes the consequences are quite severe, if not fatal, in terms of taking them on to a drug like prescription drugs or heroin, which we're seeing a lot today. So yeah, the Gateway Effect is real; it's genuine."

Cohn said Columbia, MO, adopted a similar measure ten years ago. Cohn's bill will be introduced to the St. Louis Board of Alderman Friday.

KSDK

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