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Missouri Bill Would Soften Marijuana Possession Sentences

Torben Bjørn Hansen

A St. Louis- area lawmaker plans to file legislation in the Missouri House this week he says would enable both non-violent and first-time marijuana offenders to move forward in their lives.

The first bill would levy fines of up to $250 for first-time possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia.  The second would allow people who’ve committed non-violent and non-sexual misdemeanors to petition to have their records expunged after five years.  

Both proposals are being pitched by Democrat Rory Ellinger of University City.

“I can’t tell you the number of times that I have received phone calls as a lawyer from young people graduating from college, saying, ‘I’m ready to start a high school teaching career; they tell me I have to get this off my record. What can I do?’  And you cannot do anything,” Ellinger said.

Ellinger says the marijuana bill is modeled after a city ordinance on the books in Columbia.

“Columbia hasn’t fallen into decadent shame or anything by the passing of their bill making it a misdemeanor,” Ellinger said.

Ellinger says his bill would enable past non-violent, non-sexual offenders to get jobs, public assistance, and to generally move on with their lives.  He says he’ll file both proposed bills in the Missouri House this week.

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