When Amendment 2 was passed by voters in 2018, more than 82% of residents in St. Louis Missouri supported decriminalization. Currently, only medical use was legalized in 2014. And the first sales of medical cannabis in Missouri began in October 2020.
Just over a year later, residents and lawmakers in St. Louis, Missouri, took an additional step. One that would make it difficult for police to pursue charges against anyone in possession of cannabis. If they didn’t have a Missouri medical card.
Not only has the new legislation inBoard Bill 132 passed unanimously, but it also offers new protections for citizens without a medical card. St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones signed the bill that was first introduced on November 5, 2021.
Board Bill 132 states: “The proposed bill would repeal Ordinance Numbers 66419, 68404 and 69429, which pertain to the possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. The bill would also update local enforcement priorities, and probable cause and reasonable suspicion standards, and disciplinary standards to harmonize City policy with Article XIV of the Missouri State Constitution.”
The move to decriminalize personal use of cannabis at the municipal level is not uncommon. Especially in states where legalizing cannabis has been stuck at the legislative level. Usually in the Senate. For example, law enforcement has been directed not to pursue legal charges for personal use in Austin, Texas. Or to use city resources to prosecute possession of small amounts of cannabis.
Protecting St. Louis Citizens from Arrest for Cannabis Use
There are a lot of ordinances packed into Board Bill 132 that will significantly reduce arrest rates in St. Louis, Missouri. The new protections only apply to small amounts for personal use. Criminal charges may still be filed for cases involving guns, violence, large quantities of cannabis, or distribution.
Mayor Jones is committed to addressing racial disparity in St. Louis Missouri arrest rates. According to a statement by the Mayor, there have been almost 600 arrests for the personal use of cannabis. And small amounts. Of that number, just under five-hundred (500) citizens in St. Louis were people of color (POC).
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that probable cause ordinances had changed. Police in St. Louis, Missouri, would not be permitted to search and arrest based on the scent of cannabis. The exception to the rule is cannabis being used in restricted areas, such as near schools, daycares, hospitals, and government buildings.
Board Bill 132 also diverts resources to what St. Louis lawmakers feel are more important. Violent crime and other drug-related criminal activity.
Prior Arrests for Controlled Substances Exempted from Legal Protection in St. Louis
Section 2 of Bill 132 outlines how people with a prior controlled substance conviction will not be exempted from prosecution. If there is an evident pattern of breaking the law with marijuana or any other drug, residents in St. Louis Missouri can still be apprehended.
That includes citizens who:
Were found guilty of a felony offense (any charge) within the past ten years.
Pled guilty in a Missouri State Court for a Class A misdemeanor offense within the past five years preceding the current charge.
Have been arrested on suspicion of a felony or misdemeanor relating to a marijuana offense.
Were discovered to possess marijuana packaged for sale or distribution.
Had quantities of cannabis in excess of 35 grams (1.23 ounces)
In 2020, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) completed a report about racial arrest bias in Missouri. Persons of Color (POC) or black Americans are 2.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana in Missouri. And communities with the highest number of black citizens in Missouri statistically show the arrest bias by county. In some counties, that arrest rate is 27x’s higher for black Americans.