Lead photo via Flickr user Arch Sam
For cannabis advocates facing an uphill battle in states with anti-marijuana leadership, local legislation to decriminalize the plant has often been a first step towards reefer reform, with big and small cities across the East Coast, Midwest and the South opting to reduce criminal possession charges while they wait for state legislators to wisen up. In St. Louis, Missouri, one local lawmaker is taking that concept a step further, and has introduced a bill that would bring total legalization to the Show Me State’s largest city.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Alderwoman Megan Green’s Marijuana Board Bill would essentially hold local cops to the same standard as officers in legal weed states, halting “the civil or criminal punishment for the use or possession of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia against any individual or entity.”
That means that for adults 21 and older, possession, sale and personal grow-ops would all suddenly become legal within St. Louis city limits.
Like other weed-legal locations, cops would still be able to bust anyone selling cannabis to people younger than 21 and those same youth for possession. If the city ordinance is passed, Green says St. Louis P.D. would be able to spend their time focusing on more urgent crimes.
St. Louis passed a traditional decriminalization ordinance in 2013, causing marijuana arrests to drop significantly, but Green’s newly introduced legislation could extend that success to previously uncharted territory.
To support the legality of her proposition, Green’s bill cites the cities of Denver and Breckenridge in Colorado and Portland, Maine as places that have “regulated marijuana under state and local laws.”
Data from those cities and states has largely shown legalization to be a success, with fewer people trapped in the criminal justice system and mountains of tax revenue flooding in. Even with those facts readily available, some St. Louis officials think that ending prohibition without explicit state approval could be a recipe for disaster.
“It’s very difficult for a city to go alone on this type of issue,” said Koran Addo, a spokesman for St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, to the Post-Dispatch. “This is a subject that will have to be worked on on a broader basis.”
Still, Green believes she has enough support in the city government to pass the ambitious bill, suggesting that even hyper-localized legalization could eventually bring millions in tax profit for the struggling city.
“[Marijuana] is a $6 billion industry and rapidly growing,” Green said. “It’s hard to calculate, but there is, I think a huge potential for revenue generation.”
Missouri cannabis advocates have already started pushing for comprehensive statewide legalization next year, but most experts still see that goal as a longshot.
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