By John Payne
The last day of the 2013 legislative session, the House Downsizing State Government Committee gave a very sympathetic hearing to HB 512, which would have eliminated arrest, jail time, and lifelong criminal records in most cases of possession of under 35 grams of marijuana.
I traveled down to the capitol to testify on the bill, along with Saint Louis Police Sergeant, Tea Party activist, and lobbyist Gary Wiegert and Saint Louis entrepreneur and Republican Committeeman Robert Sternberg. We met SMCR Board Chair Dan Viets there, and we all testified in favor of the bill (you can read my testimony at the end of this newsletter), along with a representative from the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.
Perhaps the most convincing testimony to the committee members came from their fellow legislators, bill sponsors Rory Ellinger (D - University City) and Chris Kelly (D - Columbia). Kelly's testimony from his experience as a judge particularly seemed to make an impact on his colleagues. As the Columbia Daily Tribune article on the hearing reported:
Kelly told the committee it wastes officers' time to have them processing marijuana arrests. With limited resources, officers should be working on more serious matters such as domestic violence cases, he said.
"Should we do both so badly so we do neither well?" Kelly asked. "This is one that matters the least and has phenomenal negative consequences both to the public and the individuals involved."
If laws against marijuana are designed to deter its use, he said, there is no sign that "an almost inconceivably massive effort to deter has had any impact at all."
No one testified against the bill, nor were any representatives outright hostile to the bill.
After the hearing, Committee Chairman Paul Curtman (R - Pacific) told the reporter that he favored the bill and wished it had been assigned earlier. And, although it didn't end up in any of the media reports, Committee Vice Chair Mike Kelley (R - Lamar) openly stated his support for the idea before the hearing.
All of that bodes extremely well for our chances of passing major reforms in the legislature next year.However, we have to continue working hard while the legislature is out of session!
That means engaging the public and elected officials in local meetings on the subject. If you want to see a meeting on cannabis policy in your community, email me, and I will work with you to set one up! We are currently working on scheduling events in Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla, Springfield, and Saint Charles.
Scheduling, planning, promoting, and holding these events does cost time and money. I estimate each event will cost around $200 in room rental fees, promotion, and travel expenses. Please contribute now to help us meet those costs!
While we are on the subject, I had to reschedule the Saint Ann Town Hall because the library double booked its meeting room on June 3. The event is now scheduled for Thursday, June 13, at the Rock Road Branch of the Saint Louis County Library, located at 10267 Saint Charles Rock Road in Saint Ann, 63074.