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Marijuana Reform Now Law in St. Louis, Chief Sam Dotson Says Will Improve Prosecutions

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Last month, the St. Louis Board of Aldermen overwhelmingly approved a measure to reform local marijuana laws so that minor possession cases will be handled as fines in city court and not misdemeanor charges in state court.

Mayor Francis Slay officially signed the bill into law last week, his spokeswoman tells Daily RFT, which means that starting June 1, the new ordinance will go into effect.

We recently got a chance to ask St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson for his perspective on the new law, which supporters say will encourage law-enforcement officials to use resources more efficiently.

Dotson says he is hopeful it will have a positive impact -- but emphasizes that it won't make it easier to get away with illegal drug possession.

See also:
- Marijuana: St. Louis Board of Aldermen Passes Pot Reform Bill
- Poll Says Majority of Missourians Favor Legalizing Pot, Regulating Like Alcohol
- Police Sgt. Gary Wiegert is Suing Department for Suppressing His Pot Lobbying

"This isn't legalizing marijuana," Dotson says.

What does the bill do?

As we've reported, the bill, written by Alderman Shane Cohn, directs metro police officers who arrest individuals for minor possession charges to bring the cases to municipal court instead of to the circuit attorney's office (which is a higher-level prosecution). At that lower level, the charges are treated more like city traffic tickets instead of misdemeanors.

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Chief Sam Dotson.

Cohn says it will alleviate both police and court resources. The circuit attorney's office also supports the measure, arguing it will be a more efficient use of resources that will also generate tax revenue for the city in fines.

Dotson says that city court is a better place for these minor cases to be handled.

The main goal, he says, is still to "stop people from doing things that are illegal."

"I'm always concerned about the nexus that exists between drug sales and violence," he says.

At the state level, misdemeanor charges tied to possession of small amounts of pot would sometimes go nowhere, because the courts don't always have the capacity to handle these cases, Dotson explains.

Now, metro officers can bring these first-time offenders with an amount of pot under 35 grams to city court -- where it is more likely there will be a prosecution, he explains.

That penalty, however, will be a fine ranging from $100 to $500.

If convicted through the higher court, those same offenses could have previously involved jail time.

This reform, Dotson says, "is opening up other prosecutorial opportunities for the department."

And Dotson and other supporters of the measure argue that this reform would lead to prosecutions that are more productive and suitable for those who are caught, too.

Slay, who has emphasized that he does not support the legalization of marijuana, told us in a previous interview that he hopes this kind of reform would free up jail space for more serious criminals.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.


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63 comments
Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

Using the unintelligent venacular of someone who is regularly high. You do realize what you said made absolutely no sense unless you are Charlie Sheen. You just made my point.

Brian Bacchus
Brian Bacchus

Chief Dotson can rest easier by abolishing the "nexus" of violence and crime around drug sales once we cease prosecuting people for possession and use of a common plant. How many people die in the US each year relating to cigarette trafficking? Keeping this illegal not only ruins lives through needless criminal conviction it also kills people.

Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

Brian Wittling my experience shows all both. There is health issue and if someone under the influence is not a safe driver or a clear thinking parent or anything else....that has everything to do with criminal acts.

Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

Just because you think you are doing all those things does mean you are. Weed alters your perception.

Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

That's what all weed smokers say. Would you think a parent that is drunk is functioning to the best of their ability? I don't and weed isn't much different.

Ford Dee
Ford Dee

Weed has never stopped me from handling my business or having kids or driving. My memory is fine and so is my lungs...now smoking anything can and may affect the smoker. I stopped smoking for about a year because of the job i had and didnt suffer any side affects. Everybody is different and have their own personal experiences with it. There will always be 2 sides of the debate. Prescription pills and over the counter medicine will kill you before weed do...thats just the truth.

Penn Boon
Penn Boon

wait, is the legal change going to apply to real marijuana, or just schwag like what's pictured?

Brian Wittling
Brian Wittling

and yet none of your experience lays any validity to this needing to a criminal issue as opposed to a public health issue..

Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

I know many people who are addicted and can't quit and those that do, very difficult and painful just like any other drug. I was fortunate enough that my husband decided to quit to keep his family. CPS told him marijuana users are not considered fit parents even with prescriptions.

Kim Zarick Lewallen
Kim Zarick Lewallen

I know that it keeps you from doing lots of things in life, people use it as a escape mechanism. I am not for sure if the weed is addicting but I know people with addictive personalities use it night and day. So if people are cool with the chance of being in jail then ok. But I know it does ruin your memory and my brother that is a recovering addict will tell you it is addicting. Further more the drugs now get mixed with some dangerous substances.

Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

Oh, I have a couple of people from that time period in stage 4 lung cancer. Doctor said cause.d by weed. Doctor said, not me.

Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

Thank you Kim. It's nice to have a comment from someone not under the influence of excuses.

Erik Olsen
Erik Olsen

Still are a couple state laws and a Constitutional amendment to tackle but here's hoping. Then, deregulation of hemp at the Federal DoA level followed by de-scheduling marijuana at the Federal level.

Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

How is it opinion when what I am sharing is from personal experience, not reading an article, not my thoughts alone, not from others have said, but from what I have personally experienced. That is not opinion however people stating crime will be reduced, how can you know that.

JJ O'Brand
JJ O'Brand

You know what opinions are like, right?

Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

I will give you one for your side, sort of. My husband and his friend smoked Marijuana from dawn to dusk and into the night every day. Not everyone does that. So understand I am looking at the extreme end of this subject. But think about this, we all complain about the drunk drivers. Aren't we adding more to the road only under the guise of weed?

Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

And guess what else, he produced no children until he quit in late 40's and we now have a 5 year old. He would be the first to tell you he thinks more clearly and overall feels healthier.

Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

So reviews by peers are proof, uh uh, Did I hurt your feelings? Sorry but this is not antiquated statements but personal experience over the last few years living amongs many many marijuana users, my husbands customers. I know what I speak of and no insults will change the truth. Every study I have read affirms that memory is affected. Just stay off my part of the roads and out of my businesses. I prefer to deal with people who can think clearly.

Casey Kohler
Casey Kohler

Some probably will, but they are stupid. Most of us know it isn't. And the county will be forced too anyways eventually.

Sam Maiden Jr.
Sam Maiden Jr.

I wasn't debating that. I was just saying that it's still illegal and I bet you people in St. Louis County are now going to think this applies to them, lol.

JJ O'Brand
JJ O'Brand

The fact that it needs not be, that's what's hard to swallow.

JJ O'Brand
JJ O'Brand

There is peer reviewed evidence to disprove everything you just claimed. If he has issues w/ memory it's not from cannabis, but, by all means continue w/ your ridiculous ancient talking points.

JJ O'Brand
JJ O'Brand

Or you just got trolled... more likely the latter.

Amy Turnbull
Amy Turnbull

That was a sarcastic comment I made and no, I'm not under the influence.

Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

Oh, I know you have brains because you aren't under the influence.

Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

Marijuana is the king of deception. But hey let's legalize all drugs and allow while driving (since you all think so much better under the influence) because people are doing it anyway and we can tax the hell out of it. Doing that makes it safe and sane and ok. Wrong is wrong.

Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

You THINK it is what is making you function. Just like any other drug, it disguises all your real problems. And I do know something about it. My husband for ten years sold the stuff. He used for over 30 years. It destroyed him and us. Now that he has gone through the withdrawals and can think clearly again he is at peace along with the rest of the family.

Lisa Sharp Doyle
Lisa Sharp Doyle

I lived with a marijuana user for years. It is not the simple safe drug many profess it to be. It destroys families and the ability of the user to accomplish much in life. When my husband quit the withdrawals were much more than expected. To this day his memory is very limited. The fact that everyone will use anyway is not a good one to legalize. We could use that same excuse for so many things.

Billy Smith
Billy Smith

Sam isn't being simple minded, he's stating the facts. It's still illegal. What's so hard to swallow about that?

Casey Kohler
Casey Kohler

Like I said, it's still called REFORM. Don't be so simple minded.

Benjamin Shultz
Benjamin Shultz

Pot is illegal because the political fat cats don't have control over its distribution like they do with cigarettes. It's not in their best interest to legalize it until they can figure out how to maximize the revenue and personal gain they would receive. I know a lot of people who have health issues due to smoking cigarettes and none that have issues from marijuana.

Chris Wieland
Chris Wieland

Generate review, huh? How about legalize it, regulate it, tax the hell out of it? How about we stop paying for the food, shelter, medical costs, etc. for prisoners who's crime was possession/distribution?

Casey Kohler
Casey Kohler

You obviously know nothing about the healing properties of the plant, most people who use it recreationally, don't realize their recreational use is actually medicinal, and that's its helping them. I started off as a recreational user, but as I got older and smoked less growing up, i realized that cannabis was the only thing that helped me function when I would get sick or start having bodily issues, like bodily pain, or inflammation of the stomach. It's safer than tylenol.

Casey Kohler
Casey Kohler

It is reform, if it means no more prosecution or possibility of arrest, yeah, its still illegal on a state and federal level. But we obviously have more important shit to worry about, like the heroin epidemic. I bet you if I walk to my local convenience store, I can find heroin before I find a bag of good weed, And guess which is cheaper? Not the good weed. I actually work at a gas station, i know this first hand. We have to run dealers and addicts off our lot all the time. People that come in smelling like weed, just want a rello and a juice lol. The heroin on the other hand creates a whole new industry of danger. Stealing, prostitution, disease, and violence. I don't remember the last time someone sucked a dick for a bag of weed, and if it happened, it happened in St.Louis. Which is more reason why it should be fucking regulated and legalized, and less of a criminal offense. Just wish they'd apply this same law to the county.

rachaduncan
rachaduncan

@Lisa Sharp Doyle Weed is  a heck of a lot different than pot, you obviously have no idea what you are talking about.

rachaduncan
rachaduncan

@Lisa Sharp Doyle It's not painful or difficult at all to quit.

trilledmeow
trilledmeow

@JJ O'Brand 

He can't remember why he married such an irrational bitch.

trilledmeow
trilledmeow

@Lisa Sharp Doyle  

You don't know anything about right and wrong. What is wrong is subjective in many cases, which leads to conflicts.  I could tell you it's wrong to eat fast food, what with all that fat clogging up your brain. How can you have a right to put that in your body while I'm around? (That's about as well founded as your arguments are.) You're also looking a little old, so maybe you are a danger to others on the road -- you're certainly ugly enough to cause accidents. Oh, was that mean? Well I think you are a mean, ignorant, nasty bitch, so I don't care -- go find something productive to do. Everyone has better things to do than stare at the loud-mouthed mug you keep displaying everywhere, and I'm sure you need to get back to masturbating to election commercials.



trilledmeow
trilledmeow

@Lisa Sharp Doyle  

What exactly are the "so many things" everyone does that should be illegal?

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