St. Louis, Missouri, just joined the growing list of US cities and states that have chosen to decriminalize personal pot possession and use.
On Tuesday, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen unanimously approved a new ordinance that completely removes all penalties for minor cannabis possession, use, or cultivation. St. Louis actually already passed a decriminalization ordinance in 2018, reducing the penalty for minor possession to a $25 fine, but the new law expands the city's cannabis reform efforts even further.
Once this rule change is in effect, city cops will no longer be able to take any action whatsoever against adults for possessing up to two ounces of pot. The new ordinance also blocks city police and courts from expending any resources on busting people who grow up to six flowering plants in their homes, or from penalizing anyone caught with weed paraphernalia.
The ordinance also offers additional protection for city employees who use cannabis medicinally. City employees who test positive for THC on a random drug test will be allowed to present medical marijuana cards as evidence that they are legally authorized to use cannabis in Missouri. Adults will be allowed to publicly smoke weed on their own residential property, but all other kinds of public smoking will remain criminalized.
“This bill basically just harmonizes our local ordinance with the state’s constitution, as well as further decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana,” said Alderman Bret Narayan (D), who proposed the measure, Marijuana Moment reports. “It has the buy-in from the public safety director, it has the buy-in from the director of personnel. We’ve talked to basically every stakeholder along the way.”
The new law also received the green light from St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones. “The intention is to free up police resources so they don’t even have to worry about arresting someone for a victimless crime,” said Nick Dunne, spokesperson for the mayor, to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Mayor Jones also noted that decriminalization will also help reduce the racially-biased enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws. Even with the city's previous decriminalization ordinance in effect, St. Louis cops still arrested 591 people for weed in the past 3 years – and 488 of those people were Black. To further protect against biased policing, the new ordinance will also ban cops from using the odor of marijuana as an excuse to search or arrest someone.
Police are still authorized to arrest anyone who is selling cannabis or distributing it to minors, though, and anyone caught with more than 2 ounces of weed can also face criminal charges. And since adult-use cannabis still remains illegal under Missouri law, state cops can still arrest St. Louis residents for minor possession or literally any other weed-related crime.
Most Southern and Midwestern states continue to prohibit adult-use cannabis, but more and more individual cities in these states are locally decriminalizing minor pot crimes. Kansas City, Missouri also removed all criminal penalties for minor pot use last year, and major cities in Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Wisconsin have enacted decriminalization measures as well. And in states where weed is legal, cities like Denver, Seattle, Ann Arbor, and Oakland have gone one step further by decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms and other natural psychedelics.