Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Finally Gets Hearing on Last Day of Missouri Session

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One step closer to decriminalization.
A proposal to decriminalize marijuana across the state will have a hearing this morning at the Missouri House of Representatives -- which appears to be the farthest this effort has ever gone in the legislature.

It will not, however, make it much farther this time around given that today is the last day of the legislative session.

Still, supportive lawmakers and marijuana reform advocates from Show-Me Cannabis are celebrating the opportunity to have the issue finally debated in this setting.

"It's a big step forward for Missouri," State Rep. Rory Ellinger, a University City Democrat, tells Daily RFT.

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Ellinger's proposal, House Bill 512, would decriminalize the possession of under 35 grams of cannabis.

It is not by any means legalization, but rather would establish that these minor possession cases would result in a punishment of a fine under $250, as opposed to current harsher policies across the state. (And the bill would not apply to individuals who have been convicted of a felony in the last ten years or individuals who have been convicted of previous marijuana charges -- and a few other exceptions outlined in the proposal).

rep rory ellinger 1.jpg
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Rory Ellinger.

The legislation also encourages the courts to make use of a probation option by which the defendant -- upon successful completion of probation -- has the offense wiped from his or her record.

Ellinger tells us that this kind of decriminalization initiative is logical considering current policies around alcohol and tobacco.

"It's very hypocritical to come down on people who use marijuana," he says. "Tobacco and liquor are controlled substances and they are legal. We tax them and we regulate them. That's what we should do with marijuana."

He adds, "I don't know anyone who died of a marijuana overdose."

He emphasizes that with this proposal, marijuana "doesn't become just another product like ketchup. It's still a controlled substance."

Even though the bill is only getting a hearing, it's still a significant move in the right direction, he says, noting that he did not even get this opportunity in past sessions.

The leadership of the House promised him he would get a hearing, he says, and has followed through -- even if it's on the very last day.

"I think it bodes well," he says, adding, "There's actually a lot of support for this among Republicans. It's less interference in people's ordinary lives."

The hearing comes two weeks after the city of St. Louis officially signed into law a similar measure that encourages reduced punishments locally for low-level marijuana possession.

Ellinger's bill is modeled after a local reform in the city of Columbia and advocates are hoping elected officials will pass similar measures in other Missouri cities.

A statewide measure would go a long way to save limited law enforcement resources, says John Payne, executive director of Show-Me Cannabis, who will testify today.

"Police in Missouri consistently arrest around 20,000 people for possession of small amounts of marijuana every year," Payne says in a statement. "That is a tremendous waste of law enforcement resources in service of an overly punitive policy that studies have repeatedly shown does not reduce cannabis use. Our current policy is all costs and no benefits, and this bill would be a step in the right direction for Missouri."

The hearing is at 8 a.m. today in Hearing Room 4 of the capitol building in the House's Downsizing State Government Committee.

Here's Show-Me Cannabis' full statement released yesterday followed by a draft of the bill.

On Friday, May 17, the Missouri House of Representatives' Downsizing State Government Committee will hold a hearing on House Bill 512, which would decriminalize the possession of under 35 grams of cannabis. The hearing will begin at 8:00 A.M. in Hearing Room 4 of the capitol building. Representatives from Show-Me Cannabis Regulation intend to testify at the hearing, including Executive Director John Payne, Board Chair and criminal defense attorney Dan Viets, and police sergeant and lobbyist Gary Wiegert.

The bill would eliminate the possibility of arrest or jail for marijuana and paraphernalia possession. It would limit fines for such offenses to no more than $250, but it would also specifically encourage the Courts to make use of a disposition known as "Suspended Imposition of Sentence" (SIS) probation. When a Defendant is granted SIS probation, the Defendant is not convicted of the offense and, when that probation is successfully completed, there is no longer any public record of the entire matter.

"Police in Missouri consistently arrest around 20,000 people for possession of small amounts of marijuana every year," Payne said. "That is a tremendous waste of law enforcement resources in service of an overly punitive policy that studies have repeatedly shown does not reduce cannabis use. Our current policy is all costs and no benefits, and this bill would be a step in the right direction for Missouri."

H.B. 512 is modeled after an ordinance passed by Columbia voters in 2004. A similar reform was passed in the City of Saint Louis in April and will take effect on June 1. A version of the idea is also currently before the Springfield City Council.

Show-Me Cannabis Regulation is an association of organizations and individuals, who believe that cannabis prohibition is a failed policy, and regulating and taxing cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol would better control the production, distribution, and consumption of cannabis than the current criminal market system does. The group seeks to engage Missourians in a serious, public discussion about the issues associated with marijuana consumption, including medical cannabis, industrial hemp, public safety, and financial analysis in order to address problems associated with the current, failed policy.

House Bill 512

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26 comments
Brian Cunningham
Brian Cunningham

Yes why not its` not near as bad as shooting up like some do. If it is done in moderation then I see no problem with pot.

James Madison
James Madison

Not true, you may drive perfectly straight, but your reaction time may be impaired. You pose an undue risk to others. Is there a blood test to know the level of debilitating effects of getting high? Alcohol is set at 0.08 - what is measured for getting high? So few are using vaporizers, and usually only in places where smoking is not allowed. Do we allow a dopehead to take a toke on his joint with kids in the car? There needs to be a lot discussion before anything ought to change on this. If we can revoke driving from those that pose real dangers to others, I'm happy to let others do as they please. But I do not want a busload of kids paying the price for someone to get high.

Chris Luft
Chris Luft

you can easily determine if someone is driving under the influence if they are driving poorly. otherwise they are posing absolutely no threat to anyone. if we move to vaporizers like the tobacco industry is, there is no issue of second hand smoke.

IDonno Whye
IDonno Whye

If it is decriminalized,regulated and taxed then it is nothing more than a ploy for the government and pharmaceutical companies to dip their hands further into our pocket.Does anyone really think I would buy something that i could grow as easily as a tomato plant in my backyard garden?I am a smoker but this all just seems shady to me.I dont think they will let us just grow our own and consume our own.This is not the will of the people but a road to future revenue.I guess I will just have to keep my blood shot eyes on it as takes shape...

chica2270
chica2270

We could pay off a good chunk of the national debt with just what's been spent on decriminalizing this stuff, let alone legalizing it and taxing it.  Enough already!

Richard Hunt
Richard Hunt

Decriminalize it, manufacture it like tobacco, TAX THE HELL OUT OF IT like both alcohol and tobacco. Clear out the jails, the court dockets, let police do their job going after REAL criminals. BTW, this is coming from a non-smoker.

kevin_hunt
kevin_hunt

I agree with Ellinger.  The war on drugs is an expensive, corrupt failure.

Marshall Patrick
Marshall Patrick

absolutely, time the Gov. start making more money taxing pot, than busting people and handing out fines and wasting tax payer time not patrolling important problem area's..........just so you know I never inhaled just like Pres. Clinton and Obama

Rebecca Hohm
Rebecca Hohm

No. I'm saying there are no recorded deaths for cannabis use alone. Not one. You simply cannot find a single case of a cannabis overdose. For the LD-50 margin of a male weighing in at 160 pounds, he would have to smoke approximately 8000 joints in roughly 10 minutes or less to reach dangerous THC toxicity levels. As for car accidents resulting in death caused by people who are high, the CDC reports 1-2 per year. Compare that to alcohol.

Scott Tyler
Scott Tyler

Once the state and federal gov't realizes there is A LOT of money to be made, it'll happen.

James Madison
James Madison

Are you saying no one has ever died driving when high?

James Madison
James Madison

How do we determine if someone is driving under the influence? Do we throw these people in jail for years for taking a drag and a drive? What about secondhand smoke with children present? Crime or not?

Rebecca Hohm
Rebecca Hohm

When someone dies from smoking too much weed, then I'll be anti-marijuana. But since it's never happened in history, I doubt my views will change. (And for the record, I don't smoke.)

Justin N Rachel Hager
Justin N Rachel Hager

The Legislator in this state have prevented this from being heard for too many yrs. it's time to let the people decide.

Joe DalekAwsum Willis
Joe DalekAwsum Willis

Yes I've been saying that for years...treat like alcohol and tax it like cigarettes

mo_rattlesnake2002
mo_rattlesnake2002

Well James I hate to tell you this but your wrong as wrong can get. I have smoked Marijuana and drove and it didnt make my driving change at all. If snything I was alot more alert of my surroundings then enything. You need to do your home work on this drug. It dosent kill brain cells eaither... It actually stimulates more brain cells. Marijuana has more benefits to it then what you can imagine. Its safer then alcohol and cigarettes and there legal. The two biggest killers in this country is the biggest killers and Marijuana as "Never" ! not once has shown a fatality or and overdose or has killed enyone. So if your worried about someone smoking weed while driving... What you need to worry about is the drunks come staggering out of a bar and getting in there cars and driving. Besides tge Federal retards are filling your head full of bullshit about Marijuana. They dont want it legal because they will loose on all the money there making with man made crap we call medicine that dosent work worth of shit. They know Medical Marijuana is a better medicine and has more healing then enything they have from the idiots from the FDA. If you ever watched the show Weed Country you would of seen a man take a bud and took out the THC and made a medicine out of it for a child that was having up to 10 to 12 ceasures a day and after taking the medicine.... It reduces his ceasures down to 3 per week... Huge change and the more he takes it the less chances he will ever have another one or just cure it permanatley. So... Medically... It worked 100% better the man made BS from the FDA... So... All I haft to say is... Go do your home work James !

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