Columbia to Hear Proposal to Decriminalize Pot

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council is set to hear a proposal Monday night that would decriminalize marijuana in the city.

Current city ordinance regarding the drug states it is unlawful for any person to have 35 grams or less of marijuana.  

The change would allow people with serious medical conditions to use marijuana without punishment. A doctor would have to recommend it, and that doctor would also not face punishment.

The ordinance change would also affect the way the city enforces marijuana offenses. People with 35 grams or less of marijuana or those who cultivate up to six of their own plants might not be arrested or put in jail. Instead, they could face a fine of up to $250. 

Dan Viets, the chairman of the board of directors of Show-Me-Cannabis, said he has seen people like this face too harsh of charges.

"One of the areas where I've seen people suffer the worst is where they're charged with cultivating a very small amount of marijuana, clearly for their own personal use, and yet they face penalties that are just as harsh as someone who sells a very large amount of cocaine or methamphetamine," Viets said.

The ordinance states its message is that people should not use marijuana, but they shouldn't lose education and employment opportunities for using the drug. It also states the enforcement of marijuana should be among the lowest priorities of law enforcement. 

KOMU 8 News spoke with members of the Columbia Police Department, University of Missouri Police Department, and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. All of them stated they would enforce the law, no matter what it is, and had no comment on any pending proposals or legislation. 

There have been efforts within the last year to decriminalize marijuana in the state. A group called Show-Me-Cannabis submitted 16 proposals for petitions to try and decriminalize the drug, but those efforts are sidelined. 

A Missouri House of Representatives committee heard a bill on March 10 that would decriminalize the drug. Representative Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, presented HB1659, which would also tax the drug like alcohol. 

The Columbia City Council meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday.

(Editor's Note: This story has been edited to clarify proposed changes to the city ordinance and penalites under the proposal)