St. Louis County Council has voted to decriminalize cannabis possession, clearing the way for the law to be signed.
St. Louis County is trying to decriminalize cannabis
A measure to reduce the penalty for possessing marijuana (up to 35 grams) was passed by the St. Louis County Council on April 13 with a 6-1 vote. Currently in the county, possession of cannabis could result in a $ 1,000 fine or a full year in prison, but proposed legislation would reduce that to a fine of less than $ 100 – eliminating the possibility of jail time.
Tim Fitch, a former St. Louis County Police Chief, enforced these hefty sentences, but after watching state and local laws evolve over the past few years, Fitch is leading the charge of reducing the sentence.
“A lot of what I thought might happen – huge increases in addiction and substance abuse – didn’t actually happen,” Fitch told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “When it comes to someone who has a small amount of marijuana for personal use – they don’t sell it, don’t drive when they use it – I’ve just decided that in the past five years I’ve seen enough to get mine Mitigate attitude to this. “
Fitch, who was elected Republican to St. Louis County Council back in 2018, is the sponsor of the measure. During his more than thirty years with the police force, he has recognized the continuing impact of increased cannabis sentences on citizens.
“That’s on file for the rest of her life. As a country, we’re through that, ”said Fitch. “I see that with some people today [I gave] a marijuana ticket when they were 18, and they’re productive adults today. “
Ernie Trakas, the only council member who voted against the measure, did so because he agreed with the belief that cannabis is a gateway to more dangerous illegal substances. Alderman Fitch says he recognizes “the dangers of marijuana” and is “concerned about people using marijuana as a gateway drug,” but he doesn’t think this is a common problem.
“What I’m doing is bringing the actual punishment closer to the reality that is happening today,” said Fitch.
District spokesman Doug Moore said the bill will be signed by St. Louis County’s Executive Director Sam Page.
Maplewood City Council votes to decriminalize pot ownership
In an act of coincidental synchronicity, Maplewood City Council passed a measure on April 13 that decriminalized marijuana possession.
Modeled after the cannabis reform bill passed by Webster Groves City Council in March 2020, the bill reduces the punishment of citizens who possess up to 35 grams of marijuana to a meager $ 1 fine.
Councilor Sarah Crosley backed the bill, citing the disproportionate harm cannabis law enforcement has done to citizens of Black and Brown, in addition to her general failure to reduce marijuana use.
“I am grateful for the unwavering support from the council in my first policy initiative, and I hope this legislation will inspire other communities in the county to take similar action,” said Crosley.
While there are currently no plans for nearby communities to reduce their sentences related to cannabis, local leaders believe the St. Louis County Council’s decision will have a legislative impact on the area.
“We want to be consistent across St. Louis County, so some cities will adjust their ordinances in a relatively short amount of time,” said Pat Kelly, director of the Municipal League of Metropolitan St. Louis. “Like any regulation, they tend to spread and evolve from place to place.”
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