As you may know by now, especially if you are in the Saint Louis area, the Saint Louis Board of Aldermen voted Monday on Alderman Shane Cohn’s bill decriminalizing the possession of less than 35 grams of cannabis in the city. In a tremendous display of support for cannabis law reform, the board voted 22 to three in favor of the proposal! The vote would have been even more lopsided had two of the bill’s supporters been present to cast their votes.
The measure does not legalize marijuana, but it removes the threat of arrest, jail, and a criminal record for people in possession of small amounts of cannabis. Some press accounts have inaccurately reported that the new punishment allows for a fine of up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail. That was true of the first version of the bill, but we worked with Alderman Cohn and the Health and Human Services Committee to craft the version approved today, which is far more similar to Columbia’s decriminalization law, with a lower fine and no possibility of jail.
The bill now goes to Mayor Francis Slay, who has pledged to sign it, provided it is free of legal flaws. Considering that the bill was endorsed by both the city attorney’s and circuit attorney’s offices, I believe he will sign it, and it will become law on June 1.
If you will be in the area on Saturday, you should celebrate by attending our 4/20 Cannabis Law Reformation Celebration! The event will take place at the HandleBar, located at 4127 Manchester in Saint Louis, 63110, with a suggested contribution of $5 at the door. Bands start at 7:00 P.M. and include Beach Bum Alcoholics, Tok, and Last to Show First to Go. They will be followed by DJ Nick 0 at 10:00. And, between sets, I will talk briefly about the next steps on the road to full legalization.
So join me in celebrating this incredible year of reform, in which we saw two American states legalize cannabis outright for the first time and now a major reform in Saint Louis! You can find more details about the event on the Facebook page. Even if you can’t make it, you can spread the word by forwarding this email, sharing the event page, and inviting your friends.
We also want to support bills like this in other Missouri cities, especially Kansas City. There are two options for making that happen. One is the initiative process in which we gather signatures in the city to put a measure before the City Council. If the council does not approve it, the voters will decide the issue at the 2014 Congressional elections. This approach is very expensive and would not bear fruit until the fall of 2014, at the earliest. The other path is to identify members of Kansas City’s City Council, who agree that our cannabis laws need to be reformed and urge them to sponsor or at least support reforms like the ones in Columbia and Saint Louis.
If you live in Kansas City, contact your representatives on the City Council informing them of the victory in Saint Louis and telling them you want to see that kind of reform in your city! If they write you back expressing agreement, please let me know, so that we can contact them and begin a dialogue about reform in KC.
If you want to show your support for our efforts across the state, contribute now. Onward and upward!