Urban prosecutors in Missouri put end to most pot cases

3 weeks 5 days 23 hours 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
COLUMBIA - One man received minor injuries after a fire truck overturned while responding to a call early Sunday morning.... More >>
2 hours ago Sunday, February 17 2019 Feb 17, 2019 Sunday, February 17, 2019 6:49:00 AM CST February 17, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - It's been 50 years since a historic moment occurred on MU's campus Community members met Saturday... More >>
10 hours ago Saturday, February 16 2019 Feb 16, 2019 Saturday, February 16, 2019 10:41:00 PM CST February 16, 2019 in News
OXFORD, MISS. - The Missouri Tigers fell short in Saturday's game against Mississippi, losing 75-65. The Tigers made the... More >>
11 hours ago Saturday, February 16 2019 Feb 16, 2019 Saturday, February 16, 2019 10:03:00 PM CST February 16, 2019 in Sports
COLUMBIA - City plow crews are continuing to clear snow covered streets as they prepare for more winter weather overnight.... More >>
12 hours ago Saturday, February 16 2019 Feb 16, 2019 Saturday, February 16, 2019 9:08:00 PM CST February 16, 2019 in News
STURGEON - A judge ordered the city of Sturgeon to reinstate Greg Halderman as its police chief, according to court... More >>
16 hours ago Saturday, February 16 2019 Feb 16, 2019 Saturday, February 16, 2019 5:05:00 PM CST February 16, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - One person is dead after a pair of crashes Saturday afternoon. Jordan E. Hoyt, 37, died after... More >>
16 hours ago Saturday, February 16 2019 Feb 16, 2019 Saturday, February 16, 2019 4:29:00 PM CST February 16, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Mike Parson and First Lady Teresa opened up the grounds of the Governor's Mansion on Saturday... More >>
17 hours ago Saturday, February 16 2019 Feb 16, 2019 Saturday, February 16, 2019 4:13:00 PM CST February 16, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA – Money raised at the 14 th annual Rootin’ Tootin’ Chili Cookoff on Saturday afternoon will benefit the Columbia... More >>
17 hours ago Saturday, February 16 2019 Feb 16, 2019 Saturday, February 16, 2019 3:42:00 PM CST February 16, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Even with slick sidewalks and snowy roads, runners still showed up for Mizzou's Rockin' Against Multiple Sclerosis 5K... More >>
18 hours ago Saturday, February 16 2019 Feb 16, 2019 Saturday, February 16, 2019 2:54:00 PM CST February 16, 2019 in News
(CNN) -- Sixty-three more people have been infected with salmonella linked to raw turkey products in an outbreak that began... More >>
20 hours ago Saturday, February 16 2019 Feb 16, 2019 Saturday, February 16, 2019 12:27:00 PM CST February 16, 2019 in News
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has defrocked former U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after Vatican officials found him guilty of... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, February 16 2019 Feb 16, 2019 Saturday, February 16, 2019 7:25:00 AM CST February 16, 2019 in News
SARCOXIE, Mo. (AP) — The Jasper County prosecutor on Thursday charged a 23-year-old English teacher at Sarcoxie High School with... More >>
1 day ago Friday, February 15 2019 Feb 15, 2019 Friday, February 15, 2019 9:56:18 PM CST February 15, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Battle High School's Girls Wrestling team will make history by competing in the first high school girls state... More >>
1 day ago Friday, February 15 2019 Feb 15, 2019 Friday, February 15, 2019 8:56:00 PM CST February 15, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - The first snow system has come to an end and two more are on the way in less... More >>
1 day ago Friday, February 15 2019 Feb 15, 2019 Friday, February 15, 2019 8:25:00 PM CST February 15, 2019 in Weather
COLUMBIA - Despite the treacherous conditions, some people have no choice but to drive in weather like Friday's. "My... More >>
1 day ago Friday, February 15 2019 Feb 15, 2019 Friday, February 15, 2019 6:48:00 PM CST February 15, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA — The Humane Society of Missouri rescued 21 dogs and 21 cats from a property in western Missouri Friday.... More >>
1 day ago Friday, February 15 2019 Feb 15, 2019 Friday, February 15, 2019 5:42:00 PM CST February 15, 2019 in News
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Another winter blast hit Missouri Friday, causing multiple accidents, closing schools and leaving highway experts... More >>
1 day ago Friday, February 15 2019 Feb 15, 2019 Friday, February 15, 2019 4:03:00 PM CST February 15, 2019 in Top Stories
CALLAWAY COUNTY - A traffic stop for following too close led to troopers seizing oxycodone, THC wax, shatter, a product... More >>
1 day ago Friday, February 15 2019 Feb 15, 2019 Friday, February 15, 2019 3:04:00 PM CST February 15, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 29°
10am 31°
11am 32°
12pm 33°
1pm 33°