Urban prosecutors in Missouri put end to most pot cases

1 year 8 months 4 days ago Monday, January 21 2019 Jan 21, 2019 Monday, January 21, 2019 10:24:00 AM CST January 21, 2019 in News
By: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Recreational use of marijuana is illegal in Missouri, but for about one-third of the state's residents, it's a crime prosecutors won't pursue.

Over the past seven months, prosecutors in St. Louis city, Jackson County and most recently St. Louis County have all announced they will no longer prosecute most low-level marijuana possession cases.

Missouri's urban areas join a growing list of places across the U.S. where similar policies have been adopted. They include the Manhattan and Brooklyn boroughs in New York City, Philadelphia, and smaller places like Albany, New York, and Norfolk Commonwealth, Virginia.

A day after taking office this month, St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Wesley Bell announced the policy change. St. Louis city Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner in June and Jackson County prosecuting attorney Jean Peters Baker in November preceded Bell. About 2.1 million of Missouri's 6.1 million residents live in those jurisdictions.

The policy changes have exceptions. Those suspected of selling or distributing marijuana will still be charged, as will motorists accused of driving while impaired by the drug.

Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said he expects additional communities across the U.S. to follow suit "as more and more Americans are demanding that we replace our policies of incarceration and prohibition with legalization and regulation."

Once seen as a "gateway drug" that lured users to harder and more dangerous experimentation, the nation has seen a growing acceptance of marijuana, in part for its medicinal use. Missouri voters approved medical marijuana in November, joining 32 other states. Recreational use is legal in 10 states.

Some Missouri lawmakers say prosecutors shouldn't be picking and choosing which laws to pursue or ignore.

"It's the legislative branch who draws up the laws of Missouri," Republican Rep. Jim Murphy of south St. Louis County said. "The courts interpret them and the prosecutors and law enforcement enforce the law."

Republican Sen. Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis agreed, calling the prosecutors' decisions "a subversion of our democratic process."

Onder, a physician, also cited concerns about marijuana's health impact on young users.

Bell said his office needs to focus on violent and serious crimes. He noted that in the past, an assistant prosecutor might spend up to 60 hours working on a single marijuana possession case.

"When I think of keeping my family safe, the person smoking a small amount of marijuana is not what I'm worried about," Bell said.

He also believes the new policy benefits those caught with the drug. People with addiction problems will be directed to treatment, he said. Others will avoid the stigma of incarceration, which can cost them their jobs.

"I don't think anyone should see the inside of a jail cell for a small amount of marijuana," Bell said.

Baker was unavailable for comment, her spokesman said. Messages seeking comment from Gardner were not returned.

Bell pulled off a shocking win in the August Democratic primary against 28-year incumbent Bob McCulloch, and ran unopposed in November. Before that he was a city councilman in Ferguson, elected months after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown that set off months of protests.

Bell was sworn in Jan. 1 and announced sweeping policy changes a day later, including the new marijuana policy.

Marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government. Those caught transporting marijuana across state lines can face federal prosecution.

More News

Grid
List
As COVID-19 continues to spread, KOMU 8 will continue to update you about impacts in the community. Previous coverage: ... More >>
38 minutes ago Friday, September 25 2020 Sep 25, 2020 Friday, September 25, 2020 11:09:00 AM CDT September 25, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA-- A group of University of Missouri students is holding a sit-in Friday on Mel Carnahan Quadrangle on the MU... More >>
1 hour ago Friday, September 25 2020 Sep 25, 2020 Friday, September 25, 2020 10:13:00 AM CDT September 25, 2020 in News
MONITEAU COUNTY - One man is in custody after a police pursuit through mid-Missouri Wednesday. Matthew Scovell, 40, of... More >>
1 hour ago Friday, September 25 2020 Sep 25, 2020 Friday, September 25, 2020 9:55:00 AM CDT September 25, 2020 in News
MISSOURI- As COVID-19 continues to spread, KOMU 8 will continue to update you about impacts in the community. The... More >>
2 hours ago Friday, September 25 2020 Sep 25, 2020 Friday, September 25, 2020 9:00:00 AM CDT September 25, 2020 in News
(CNN) -- At least 41 people are sick in 10 different states after a salmonella outbreak that has been linked... More >>
2 hours ago Friday, September 25 2020 Sep 25, 2020 Friday, September 25, 2020 8:57:53 AM CDT September 25, 2020 in News
WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg becomes the first woman in American history to lie in state... More >>
3 hours ago Friday, September 25 2020 Sep 25, 2020 Friday, September 25, 2020 8:25:00 AM CDT September 25, 2020 in News
CPS parents and advocates want CPS to fully follow IEP guidelines Some CPS parents and special needs advocates said... More >>
6 hours ago Friday, September 25 2020 Sep 25, 2020 Friday, September 25, 2020 5:00:00 AM CDT September 25, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - The Mizzou Tigers will play the football season opener against Alabama, Saturday. Mizzou announced it is sold... More >>
7 hours ago Friday, September 25 2020 Sep 25, 2020 Friday, September 25, 2020 4:11:00 AM CDT September 25, 2020 in News
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — The U.S. government has put the first Black inmate to death since the Trump administration... More >>
14 hours ago Thursday, September 24 2020 Sep 24, 2020 Thursday, September 24, 2020 9:02:53 PM CDT September 24, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Some CPS parents and special needs advocates said CPS hasn't fully complied with Individualized Education Program (IEP) guidelines.... More >>
15 hours ago Thursday, September 24 2020 Sep 24, 2020 Thursday, September 24, 2020 8:39:00 PM CDT September 24, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA – The circuit court system has had to make some major adjustments in the last few months to meet... More >>
15 hours ago Thursday, September 24 2020 Sep 24, 2020 Thursday, September 24, 2020 8:38:00 PM CDT September 24, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Mike Parson said he and his wife Teresa Parson are fine after their positive COVID-19 test... More >>
16 hours ago Thursday, September 24 2020 Sep 24, 2020 Thursday, September 24, 2020 7:00:00 PM CDT September 24, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, R, discussed the open Supreme Court seat and the possible next stimulus package with... More >>
16 hours ago Thursday, September 24 2020 Sep 24, 2020 Thursday, September 24, 2020 6:51:00 PM CDT September 24, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed Executive Order 20-17, activating the Missouri National Guard Thursday afternoon. The... More >>
17 hours ago Thursday, September 24 2020 Sep 24, 2020 Thursday, September 24, 2020 6:33:00 PM CDT September 24, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - At Thursday's UM System Board of Curators meeting, UM President and MU Chancellor Mun Choi said the university's... More >>
17 hours ago Thursday, September 24 2020 Sep 24, 2020 Thursday, September 24, 2020 5:57:00 PM CDT September 24, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Department is taking a different approach to solving the 2019 investigation involving the remains of... More >>
17 hours ago Thursday, September 24 2020 Sep 24, 2020 Thursday, September 24, 2020 5:52:00 PM CDT September 24, 2020 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services revised its guidelines for long-term care facilities that choose to... More >>
18 hours ago Thursday, September 24 2020 Sep 24, 2020 Thursday, September 24, 2020 5:19:00 PM CDT September 24, 2020 in News
COLUMBIA - Columbia and Boone County Public Health and Senior Services officials said they have seen a decrease in demand... More >>
18 hours ago Thursday, September 24 2020 Sep 24, 2020 Thursday, September 24, 2020 4:59:00 PM CDT September 24, 2020 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 71°
12pm 76°
1pm 78°
2pm 80°
3pm 82°