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Marijuana possession, part 2: is decriminalization coming?

The pace of change is always unpredictable. Sometimes laws seem frozen in time. But then the logjam breaks and a flurry of changes occur in rapid succession.

It is quite possible that such a time may be at hand regarding pot possession. Marijuana charges in St. Louis and elsewhere remain a common occurrence. But as we discussed in our previous post, more and more states have enacted medical marijuana laws. And two have legalized pot outright for recreational use.

Missouri has not adopted a medical marijuana law. But the St. Louis City Board of Aldermen is considered a proposal to decriminalize pot possession in the city. The goal would be to stop clogging the criminal justice system with prosecutions seeking big penalties for having small amounts of weed.

St. Louis is not alone in considering such a proposal. Other cities, particularly Chicago, have done so as well. Politicians might spin the language, trying to distinguish "decriminalization" from "legalization." But the effect is essentially the same, whichever word is used.

What then is that effect? In practice, it would likely mean that low-level possession of marijuana would not be grounds for arrest. Rather, possession of small amounts of pot would only be a matter for a misdemeanor ticket.

St. Louis elected officials and their staff members are still working on the proposal. This includes consultation with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney's Office about how many marijuana cases might be affected. The bottom line, however, is that some sort of change may be coming.

Source: "Marijuana Decriminalization Bill: How Many Cases Does St Louis Circuit Attorney Handle?" Riverfront Times, Sam Levin, 1-28-13

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