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Reduced Penalties For Pot Possession Sent To Mayor

A marijuana plant.
(via Flickr/Roomic Cube)
A marijuana plant.

Possession of small amounts of marijuana would, under some circumstances be handled by city prosecutors under legislation sent to Mayor Francis Slay today.

Under Ald. Shane Cohn's legislation, first and second-time offenders carrying less than 35 grams of pot would automatically receive a citation and face a maximum $500 fine. It would not apply to those with recent felony convictions, with two or more misdemeanor possession convictions, or if the marijuana possession is part of another crime.

Currently, police officers decide whether the case is handled at the state or city level.

Cohn says the changes will save time and money, allowing the courts to operate more efficiently.

For example, he says, police have to leave the streets to process someone arrested for marijuana possession. Then, they often must use overtime to testify in a case.

"You could name a number of other felony-level crimes that are way more pressing than this," Cohn said.

Ald. Joe Vaccaro was one of three who opposed the reduction in penalties, saying he still believes that marijuana is a gateway drug.

"Someone who goes down to the corner and meets some guy and buys marijuana is likely to go down and meet that same guy and buy meth, or you know, heroin," he said.

A spokeswoman says Mayor Francis Slay is reviewing the measure, but is expected to sign it.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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