By Chris Lindsey
Last Tuesday, Gov. Jay Nixon made Missouri history by allowing the state to join the ranks of 18 others that have eliminated the possibility of jail time for the possession of marijuana. The new law made several significant reforms to the state's criminal laws, including protecting people caught with up to 10 grams from incarceration for choosing a substance that is safer than alcohol.
The governor decided not to sign SB 491, instead allowing it to become effective without his signature. In addition to "decriminalizing" simple possession of marijuana, this new law also reduces possible sentences related to the sale and cultivation of marijuana, including the current ban on probation or parole for those with 3rd felony offenses.
Unfortunately, the law is somewhat limited. It will not take effect until January 1, 2017, and the protections against jail time only apply to people without prior marijuana convictions. Also, a possession charge --- even without the possibility of jail time --- is still a crime and can mark a person for life, affecting housing, employment, and future employment opportunities.
Nonetheless, this represents several major improvements, and now statewide law is beginning to reflect those of both St. Louis and Columbia, which previously decriminalized possession of up to 35 grams of cannabis.
MPP wishes to thank Missouri attorney and activist Dan Viets and Show-Me Cannabis for their strong contributions to the new law!